Posts Tagged ‘Richie Havens’

‘Manifest Destiny’

Wednesday, August 17th, 2016

The current book on the reading table is Measuring America, Andro Linklater’s account of how surveyors, land agents, speculators, squatters and others moved west across North America from the late 1700s onward.

The tale of what Linklater calls “the greatest land sale in history” covers the long development of tools of measurement, looking at how a pound became a pound, an acre became an acre, and so on; the development of the idea of private citizens, rather than the Crown, owning land; the creation, in most of the United States, of the grid system that anchors many states, cities and individual lots of property; and the long sad tale of the dispossession of North America’s native cultures.

It was during Linklater’s discussion of the outcome of the Mexican-American War of 1846-48 that I came across the two words that reminded me of sixth grade social studies at Lincoln Elementary School just down a couple streets from here: “manifest destiny.” I learned the words during that sixth grade school year of 1964-65, and we in my class – every one of us Caucasian – learned that those words were somehow tied to the expansion of the United States from an Atlantic seaboard nation to a trans-continental empire.

I don’t know if any of us grasped what the words really meant or what they implied. I was a smart kid, and I think I had a handle on “destiny,” meaning something foreordained, but I don’t think I really knew what the word “manifest” meant, and I don’t recall that our teacher, Miss Hulteen, ever defined it for us. Google tells me this morning that the word means “clear or obvious to the eye or mind.”

In Measuring America, Linklater notes that the two-word phrase came from John L. O’Sullivan, who said that it was the United States’ “manifest destiny to overspread the continent.” As Wikipedia notes, O’Sullivan first used the words in the July-August 1845 edition of his magazine Democratic Review during the discussion over the potential annexation of Texas. The two-word phrase came to wider attention when O’Sullivan used it in a column in the December 27, 1845, edition of the New York Morning News. In that piece, O’Sullivan addressed the ongoing boundary dispute with Great Britain in what was called the Oregon Country:

And that claim is by the right of our manifest destiny to overspread and to possess the whole of the continent which Providence has given us for the development of the great experiment of liberty and federated self-government entrusted to us.

Okay, so I didn’t need all of that in sixth grade, but it would have been helpful if our teacher had interpreted the words for us, helping us understand that they reflected the mid-Nineteenth Century belief that the nation was clearly meant to stretch from Atlantic to Pacific. And it would have been even better, of course, had she told us that the implementation of that idea, the expansion of the United States across the continent from the already settled eastern portions, would continue the dispossession and destruction of native cultures that began soon after Caucasians first came ashore.

We didn’t get any of that, not even a clarifying definition. And of course, relatively few people in 1964-65 were thinking about imperialism or the fate of Native American cultures, and certainly none of them were in the classrooms of Lincoln Elementary School. I have a sense that the story of the westward expansion of the United States is told at least a little differently in schools these days. And that’s good.

Here’s “The Indian Prayer” by Richie Havens. Written by Roland Vargas Moussaa and Tom Pacheco, it’s from Havens’ 1974 album Mixed Bag II. Knowing at least a little bit about Havens’ and Pacheco’s world-views, I would guess that the song’s purpose was to offer respect to the Native Americans whose similar prayers in previous centuries were not answered in any affirmative way.


Friday, October 23rd, 2015

My sister and I had one of those “oh, my” moments last week at Mom’s storage unit when we found Dad’s alarm clock in a box of stuff. Every night he was home during his more than forty-six years on Kilian Boulevard, Dad had wound the little brown clock – Westclox? Timex? I don’t recall right now – and checked the alarm before setting it back on the nightstand and turning off the light for the evening.

It was that brown alarm clock that had started our weekdays during the school year, waking Mom and Dad at 6 a.m. They’d get dressed, and then Dad would rouse my sister and me while Mom headed downstairs to make breakfast for all of us.

When my second year of college started in September 1972, after my sister had decamped during the summer for marriage and a life in the Twin Cities, my mom decided to sleep in most mornings. That meant it was just Dad and me during the early morning, getting ready for our days across the river at St. Cloud State. He’d rise and dress, then wake me, and both of us would head out the door and drive off right around 7 a.m., he in his 1952 Ford and me in the 1961 Falcon I’d just inherited from my sister.

And for some reason, as the college quarter started during September 1972, Dad began waking me exactly at 6:42 a.m. Every day. Why that exact minute? I have no idea. But for some reason, that minute mattered.

There were days when I wasn’t quite sleeping, having surfaced from slumber to a half-waking state (a place between dreams and reality that I find quite pleasant), and I’d be aware of Dad standing next to my bed. Moments later, I’d hear the very faint click as the plastic tile in my clock radio flipped down, changing the time from 6:41 to 6:42, and Dad would shake my shoulder gently.

I’d nod, he’d head down the stairs to the kitchen, and I’d get out of bed and prepare for the day. By that time, neither of us ate breakfast at home, but when I got down to the kitchen, there would be a small glass of V-8 Juice and a larger glass of milk at my place at the table. I drank them standing up, and we’d head out.

And that’s how I started pretty much every school and work day from the autumn of 1972 until I moved away from Kilian Boulevard during the summer of 1976 (my time in Denmark excluded, although even there, I was an early riser). I never knew the significance of 6:42, and I never asked. I once mentioned it to my sister, and learned that before she left home, she was the 6:42 riser, with me following. Our conversation went elsewhere, so I never asked her the significance, if any, the minute had.

And I suppose I could have asked her last week, as she and I stood in the storage unit, looking at Dad’s clock with memories whirling in our heads. I didn’t think to do so.

She held up the clock and looked at me, as if to ask what to do with it. I shrugged; there are only so many things one can keep. She shrugged, too, and she placed Dad’s alarm clock into the box of things destined for an antique store.

And here’s an appropriately titled tune from the late Richie Havens: “Younger Men Grow Older.” It’s from an even more appropriately titled album, 1971’s Alarm Clock.

Another Preview

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

The Texas Gal is heading out of town this week, visiting her family in Texas. Before she goes, however, she needs her gardens to be weeded, a task that’s been difficult to do with our recent wet weather and her schedule.

So I am the weeder, and that’s fine. I’ll work on the four rows of onions today, as I’ll be heading to see the Minnesota Twins play baseball tomorrow, but the weeding – combined with other tasks and errands – leaves me little time for play today.

So here’s another preview of the planned post looking at covers of Donovan’s “Wear Your Love Like Heaven.” This one’s from Richie Havens, and it comes from his 1969 album Richard P. Havens, 1983. See you on Thursday.

Saturday Single No. 371

Saturday, December 21st, 2013

In just more than twenty minutes, as I write, the sun will move as far south in the sky as it ever does here in the Northern Hemisphere and will begin to slowly move north again. It’s the day of the Southern Solstice – more commonly called here in the northern half of the world the Winter Solstice – and it brings us the shortest bit of daylight of the year.

Here in St. Cloud, that will be eight hours and forty-two minutes of daylight, an amount that will remain the same for the next five days, according to the chart at On December 27, we will have eight hours and forty-three minutes of daylight, and we will slowly be on our way toward the Northern Solstice next June – the Summer Solstice in these parts – when the sun will be in our skies for fifteen hours and forty-two minutes.

It is, as I believe I wrote here once before, a long corner slowly turned but turned nevertheless. And it happens this morning at the delightful time of 11:11.

That time, of course, turned my mind toward finding a record that was at No. 11 on the date of a Winter Solstice for us to listen to this morning. But which year’s solstice? Well, I leaned toward 1973, because it’s an even forty years ago and because that December’s Winter Solstice – spent in Fredericia, Denmark – brought the least amount of daylight I’ve ever experienced in my lifetime at just about seven hours. (According to, the hours of daylight in Copenhagen – about 120 miles east of Fredericia and thus equal in daylight – bottom out tomorrow at 7:01.)

But Billboard’s No. 11 record on December 21, 1973, was Billy Preston’s “Space Race,” and the No. 11 record on the chart released the next day was Al Wilson’s “Show & Tell.” Both are decent records – I like Wilson’s more than I like Preston’s – but neither of them speaks to me about the solstice.

So we go looking for songs about the sun, and one in particular stands apart: George Harrison’s “Here Comes The Sun.” There are twelve versions of the tune in the EITW files, so I have to make a choice. As it turns out, that’s easy to do. Only one version of the song ever made the Billboard Hot 100, going to No. 16 in the spring of 1971, and it’s by a man whose music I post any chance I get. Pulled from his 1971 album, Alarm Clock, here’s Richie Haven’s live cover of “Here Comes The Sun,” and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Richie Havens, 1941-2013

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

Most folks know by now, I’m sure, that Richie Havens passed on yesterday at his home in Jersey City, New Jersey. When I heard the news, I posted a link at Facebook to his recording of “Follow” from his 1967 album Mixed Bag. The first person to comment wrote simply “Heartbroken.”

As am I today.

One of my recent posts ended with a note detailing the artists I’ve shared here most often since this blog’s inception in early 2007. Only Bob Dylan’s fifty-seven shares and Bruce Springsteen’s forty out-number Richie Havens’, whose music I’ve celebrated twenty-nine times. Had I been asked in 2007 who my three favorite artists were, I’m pretty sure I would have started with Dylan and Springsteen. I don’t know that I would have thought of Richie Havens next. But the numbers put him next in line, and I think that’s correct.

As was true for many people, my first glimpse of Richie Havens was in the film Woodstock, the documentary chronicling the famous 1969 festival in upstate New York. Havens opened the festival when the scheduled opening act, Sweetwater, was held up by traffic. And at the end of his set, grasping for another tune to play, Havens improvised, mixing a rhythmic chant of “Freedom” with the old folk song, “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child.” It was an iconic moment.

Seeing that moment on film in the Paramount Theatre here in St. Cloud didn’t make me a fan. It took a couple more decades for that. When I got there, however, I went hard, buying and listening to as much Havens as I could. It all connected with me: The voice was magnificent, the musicianship – both Havens’ and that of the musicians who backed him – was stellar, and the song choices, both of Havens’ own and of the many songs he covered, were inspired. The man’s dignity and decency, his love of peace and hope for justice, all of it came through the speakers as clearly as Havens’ voice.

His story, from his birth in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn in 1941, is fascinating, and the New York Times tells it better than I can. What I can do is note how Havens’ music makes me feel. A few years ago, I compiled for a forum a list of albums to which I turn for comfort. That list of maybe twelve albums ended with the notation, “and anything by Richie Havens.” His music – like that of a very few other performers – can take me to a meditative place, a place inside the music, so to speak, where the real world with all its burdens and blessings can be set aside for a time.

I have a feeling that Richie Havens knew that place very well. After seeing him in concert five years ago (in the Paramount Theatre where I first saw him on screen nearly forty years earlier), I wrote:

“Maybe the most remarkable thing about the concert was the energy Havens puts into his performance. His entire being is focused on the guitar and his music, and sometimes he seems oblivious to the fact that his audience is present as the music envelops him. ‘Don’t you wonder where he goes?’ the Texas Gal murmured to me during one such stretch.”

We didn’t know where he went then, and we don’t really know where he’s gone now. I have my beliefs about what comes next, and others have theirs. But wherever the soul of Richie Havens is now, it has gone there with peace and love and joy, and with the song in the air of a life well lived.

And as many times as I’ve shared the song in this space, I must share “Follow” one more time.

And close your eyes, child, and look at what I’ll show you;
Let your mind go reeling out and let the breezes blow you,
Then maybe, when we meet, suddenly I will know you.
If all the things you see ain’t what they seem,
Then don’t mind me ’cause I ain’t nothin’ but a dream .
And you can follow; And you can follow; follow . . .

‘It Was Rainin’ From The First . . .’

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

That video is what it sounded like the first time I heard “Just Like A Woman,” the last of the five songs Bob Dylan performed at the Concert for Bangla Desh during the summer of 1971. I wasn’t particularly blown away by Dylan’s performance as I sat and listened in our rec room not long after receiving the three-LP set for Christmas 1971. But I was far more interested in Dylan’s music that I ever had been, and during early 1972, I began exploring that music in greater detail.

Over the years, that’s meant digging in detail into many of Dylan’s tunes, comparing versions from one era to another, weighing the meanings in lyrics, pondering plugged vs. unplugged takes. But it struck me this morning that I’ve never spent much time thinking about “Just Like A Woman.” In fact, I think the only time I’ve ever really focused much on the song was when I was sitting at a piano trying to fake the song’s chords during a long-ago drunken sing-along somewhere in the suburbs of Copenhagen.

(The set list from that Carlsberg-fueled sing-along was remarkable in its diversity, as I think about it, including “Walk On By,” “Layla,” “Colour My World,” “Delta Lady,” “Without You,” “Fire and Rain” and – I vaguely recall – “I Am The Walrus.”)

As with many other Dylan songs, however, I have collected other versions of “Just Like A Woman” along the way, and I got to wondering this morning about those versions and other covers of the song. The fairly reliable website Second Hand Songs lists forty-two cover versions in English, and there are a few additional covers listed at Amazon. (The same likely holds true for iTunes, which I did not check.)

The first to cover “Just Like A Woman” seems to have been Manfred Mann, shortly after Dylan released the original version of the song on Blonde on Blonde. (Sadly, the two videos of the Mann single at YouTube are truncated.) The album was released in May 1966, and the Manfred Mann cover of the song spent six weeks bubbling under the Billboard Hot 100 in August and September of that year. Dylan’s single of the song entered the Hot 100 at No. 81 in mid-September and peaked a few weeks later at No. 33. Those are the only two versions of the song to make the pop chart.

Pop chart presence aside, “Just Like A Woman” seems to be one of those songs that will always attract singers. More than half of the covers listed at Second Hand Songs have been recorded since 2001, and there are only two significant gaps in the timeline since Dylan first recorded the song: a ten-year gap between the cover by Rick Nelson with the Stone Canyon Band in 1971 and Rod Stewart’s cover in 1981, followed by a seven-year gap to the version by Brazilian artist Celso Blues Boy in 1988. The most recent cover listed is one by Carly Simon that was included earlier this year on Chimes of Freedom – The Songs of Bob Dylan – Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International (an album that is high on my want list).

There are other versions that seem to be notable: “Just Like A Woman” was one of ten tunes selected by a group calling itself the Brothers & Sisters of Los Angeles for a 1969 album titled Dylan’s Gospel. (The webpage that listed the musicians involved seems to have disappeared in the past five years, but I do recall that among the singers on the project were Merry Clayton and Clydie King.)

Among the versions I’ve not yet heard – but probably should – are those from the Byrds in 1990, Judy Collins in 1993, Jeff Buckley in 2003 and Bill Medley in 2007. I have heard and liked the covers by Steve Howe from 1999 and John Gorka from 2011. And my favorite covers are those by Richie Havens from 1967, by Nina Simone from 1971 and by Jamaican performer Beres Hammond from 2004.

But perhaps the most interesting version I found this morning was the cover by the Brazilian group The Smeke. I don’t know when it was recorded, but the recording was posted at YouTube in March 2010. The video uses footage of Edie Sedgwick, the 1960s actress, model, socialite and heiress whose involvement with Dylan has been the subject of rumor and legend for more than forty years. (Here’s the take on those tales from Wikipedia.)

‘In The Coolness Of Your Shadow . . .’

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

Driving down Lincoln Avenue toward some fast food last evening, I was listening – as I generally do in the car – to WXYG, the low-power album rock station that popped up on the AM band here in the St. Cloud area about a year ago. And as I pulled into the restaurant’s parking lot, I heard a familiar and mournful violin introduction come from the speakers, followed by the breathy voice of Jesse Colin Young:

Darkness, darkness, be my pillow, take my head and let me sleep
In the coolness of your shadow, in the silence of your deep.

The song was Young’s “Darkness, Darkness,” an eloquent and haunting surrender to despair recorded by the Youngbloods for their 1969 album, Elephant Mountain. Some listeners have heard a metaphor in the song for the anguish in Vietnam going on at the time the album came out, but I’m not so sure. Either way – or any other way – it’s a chilling song that gets a little trippy in the middle:

I’ve run across numerous covers of the tune in the last decade or so, including versions by Richie Havens, Richard Shindell, the pair of Elliot Murphy & Iain Matthews, Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart, Mott the Hoople, Robert Plant and the Cowboy Junkies. So with the song running through my head this morning, I dropped by Second Hand Songs to see who else might have covered the tune. The website listed ten versions of the song, including the original; I’ve heard eight of them, missing only those by Cassell Webb from 1990 and Golden Earring from 1995.

I also took a look at the mp3s available at Amazon, and that brought up quite a few other names, some of which I knew – like Michael Stanley (with the Ghost Poets) – and many that were unfamiliar. I listened to some samples but left my pocketbook untouched this morning (although there were a few versions that might merit exploration down the road).

So with all those names, what’s actually out there? Well, the Wilson sisters’ version, which showed up on Ann Wilson’s 2007 album, Hope and Glory, is just okay, and the same is true for Robert Plant’s cover, from 2002’s Dreamland. Mott the Hoople’s 1971 version from Brain Capers is good (if a little too Mott-y, if that makes any sense). Ian Matthews’ solo take on the song – found on his 1976 album Go For Broke (released before he changed the spelling of his first name to “Iain”) – felt too matter-of-fact at the start; it became more compelling as it went along but eventually did not match the version he recorded with Elliot Murphy for La Terre Commune in 2000. I do like Lisa Torban’s version (featured here eighteen months ago), which was used in the soundtrack of the 2003 film about the Titanic, Ghosts of the Abyss.

Keeping all that in mind, four versions of “Darkness, Darkness” stand out. Almost five years ago, I wrote that Matthews and Smith’s take on the tune was at the top of my list. Well, lists like that can change, and I now think that three other covers of Young’s song are a little better:  The Cowboy Junkies’ version of the song, released on a bonus EP with their 2004 album One Soul Now, seemed a bit leaden at first, but the slower tempo eventually pulled me in. And my growing appreciation for Richie Havens’ interpretation of the song will, I’m sure, be unsurprising to most readers. His version came out in 1994 on his Cuts to the Chase album.

But the cover that I prefer these days comes from folk artist Richard Shindell, who I think found the center of Young’s song when he recorded it for his 1997 album, Reunion Hill.

From Rivers To Havens

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

In last week’s post about Jackson Browne, I noted that I had come across a few intriguing cover versions of some of his tunes, so in the interest of not letting my research molder on the shelf, here are those covers.

The music of Johnny Rivers has been a frequent topic at this blog, with singles, albums and videos having been posted more than twenty times, based on a quick estimate this morning. That’s not surprising, as I’ve long admired Rivers’ abilities. One of the covers I found this week turned out to be – as far as I can tell – the first released recording of Browne’s “Lady of the Well.” Rivers included his version on his 1972 album Home Grown. A year later, Browne included the song on For Everyman.

Maybe the most startling find during this brief bit of digging came from 1972, when the Jackson 5 covered “Doctor My Eyes,” which was on Browne’s self-titled debut (often retitled by fans as Saturate Before Using) that same year. The Jackson 5 version went to No. 9 hit in England. Here in the U.S., it was relegated to the status of an album track on Lookin’ Through the Windows, which – based on the review at All-Music Guide – sounds like a mish-mash of an album. Even if that’s true about the album, the Jacksons’ performance on “Doctor My Eyes” makes one wonder how it would have fared on the charts on this side of the pond.

A cover of “Doctor My Eyes” isn’t surprising – though hearing it done by the Jackson 5 was a little startling – as it’s one of the sturdier songs on Browne’s first album. It’s a little surprising, however, to find a cover of Browne’s’ “Song for Adam.” It’s a fine song, no doubt, but it’s far more personal in its stance and far more subdued than “Doctor My Eyes” (or the other track seen as a major statement on Jackson Browne, “Rock Me On The Water”). But Kiki Dee chose to cover “Song for Adam” on her 1973 album, Loving & Free. No doubt the production by Elton John and Clive Franks helped, but Dee did a pretty good job with the song.

There was one more surprise for me as I dug into covers of Jackson Browne’s tunes, and it shouldn’t have been a surprise at all, for I’ve heard the track in question numerous times and just forgot about it. I wrote in last week’s post that Browne’s two agit-prop albums of the late 1980s – Lives In The Balance from 1986 and World In Motion from 1989 – didn’t interest me much. Part of that was the content, and part of that was Browne’s performance; his rather slight voice didn’t seem up to the challenge of calling for revolution. But take the title tune from Lives In The Balance and hand it to Richie Havens, and you have a different thing entirely. Havens’ stirring cover of “Lives In The Balance” comes from his 1994 album Cuts to the Chase.

Happy Independence Day!

Monday, July 4th, 2011

Sometimes, it’s best for the blogger to get out of the way and let the music speak. This is one of those mornings.

Happy Independence Day!

The Tale Of Harry & ‘Mixed Bag II’

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

Sometime last year – I think it was early spring – I got an email from a fellow I know as Harry. I think he’s on the West Coast, and he has some connection with the music business. He and I had exchanged emails about music several times, and I think he stops by the blog on occasion. In the email he sent last spring, he said he was working on a project, and he needed my help.

He said he needed a copy of Richie Havens’ 1974 album, Mixed Bag II, and his vinyl copy of the album was on the other side of the country. Now, Mixed Bag II was one of the albums released on Stormy Forest records, Haven’s own imprint, and it had never been released on CD. So sometime during the time this blog was at Blogger, I wrote about Mixed Bag II and shared a rip of the vinyl. Harry, in trying to find the album for his project, had found a reference to that post, but the post no longer existed. (Here’s a link to that post, now in my archives.)

That spurred Harry to get in touch with me. He asked if I could upload the album and send him a link, so he could get on with the project that required a copy of Mixed Bag II. I was happy to do so. For quite some time, I thought nothing of it until I got another email from Harry.

In this one, he explained that he and several others were working on a CD release of Mixed Bag II, a release that had been delayed for years because no one knew where the master tapes for the album had ended up. Harry said they’d been found in Europe, and the release of the CD was set for late summer. And Harry asked me how I wanted to be listed in the notes on the CD. Did I want to be “whiteray”? Did I want my real name used?

He added that I shouldn’t count on being listed – things happen during the course of putting a CD package together – but he would try his hardest to have it happen. And he asked me not to talk about the project before the CD came out. I told him that I’d talk to the Texas Gal but no one else, and I did pretty well with that promise. I think I mentioned the possibility of my being listed in the credits to one other person over the past eight months.

And there things sat for a long time. Harry had said the CD would likely come out at the end of August, so I checked the Stormy Forest website a few times in the autumn and saw no sign of the new CD. I heard nothing more from Harry, and I kind of forgot about the CD. And autumn came and went.

About a week before Christmas, I wondered if the CD had come out, so I went to Stormy Forest, and there it was, with a newly designed cover that echoes the LP cover without replicating it. On Christmas Day, the Texas Gal told me that the Mixed Bag II CD was one of my gifts from her, so I should go ahead and order it. And since then, I’ve been wondering if my name was somewhere in the credits.

The mailman came late yesterday, so I didn’t get the mail until this morning, when I ran a snow shovel past the mailbox. And there was an envelope from Stormy Forest. Once inside, I took care of a few small tasks, and then – trying my best to be calm – opened the package and the CD. I found the list of names under “Thank You.” Mine wasn’t among them.

Well, I thought, Harry said stuff happens. I know I helped. And I put the CD into the computer to rip it to mp3s and I sat back to read the liner notes. And midway through the second page, there I am, mentioned in Thane Tierney’s tale of how Mixed Bag II found its way to CD. (Most readers know, I’m sure, that when I walk out into the real world, I do so as Greg Erickson. To see my name, click on the image to enlarge it.) As I sit here at my computer, I’m trying to figure out how this makes me feel. And I’m reminded of a comment a reader left here the other day about one of the obscure tunes I pulled from the depths of a chart: “It scratched an itch I didn’t even know I had,” he said. And that’s kind of how I feel about this: I never realized it until now, but I guess I’ve always wondered what it would be like to have my name included – somehow, for some reason – on a record jacket or CD package. Now I know, and it’s pretty cool.

And the best thing about it is that I was able to help one of my favorite performers get one of his best albums out to a new generation of listeners. Thanks for letting me do my part, Harry.

Here’s a video of “The Indian Prayer,” the stunning last track on Mixed Bag II.