A Conversation with Richie Havens
Puremusic: How is your day beginning?
Richie Havens: A little wet, but okay. [laughs]
PM: Where do I find you?
RH: Jersey City.
PM: Jersey City [laughs], oh, my.
RH: In the rain.
PM: Ouch. Okay. Wow, I've been really enjoying Wishing Well.
RH: Oh, thank you so much.
PM: What a wonderful record that is, beautiful. I've been listening to it all morning and a lot the last few days. It was not only like finding an old friend, but it was more like finding an old friend who really turned out to be the person that you thought they were.
RH: Wow, thank you. That's so nice. Yeah, I'm working on it, for sure, especially now.
PM: Especially now?
RH: Especially now, with at all the crazy stuff that we've got going on around us.
PM: Oh, it's unbelievable. It's escalating at such a rapid rate now.
PM: I'm so dismayed by the way we seem to be thought less of around the world every day.
RH: It's an amazing difference when you go over there and you read the newspapers. It's really crazy. They really get on everybody. They don't let them go. They do not let Blair out of the box. It's amazing.
PM: Oh, no, he's really under very vocal scrutiny.
RH: Well, we all are in that way. And look at the stuff we let pass by like it was nothing, like false documents.
RH: I think the night after Colin Powell showed the pictures of the supposed places to the council, I went, "Well, if the big kid will ask the question: If you have a satellite that can see that, why didn't you follow the trucks to where they went?"
PM: They just keep that movie running, man.
RH: And that's the way it is. You've got to tell them what you think.
PM: It's so scary that--"Oh, you guys can't find any of those alleged weapons of mass destruction, can you?"
RH: They're not going to, and they knew it.
PM: And if it all turns out to be about oil and puppet regimes, that's awful.
RH: One of the biggest things that I heard, the thing that told me what was going on, was when they shut off the oil going into Syria, and opened it up going into Israel.
PM: I heard about Syria but I didn't know the second part.
RH: Yes, they did. It is being pumped into Israel right now, and has been for a month, almost. You know what I'm saying? They're doing it, but interestingly enough, we split it up, too, with the British, making sure that it gets to where it's going. But we don't have to talk about it. It's British news.
PM: Yeah, right.
RH: Crazy. What's also wild is that I finished that album months before 9/11, and then after that happened it just blew my mind the things that I had on the album, that I felt when I did it. Like the Turkish violinist. And the flutist. And it just came. I wait until the last minute to do what I have to do in 90% of the cases, because I really get to do what I have to do.
And it comes out closer, because it has to happen now, that kind of thing.
RH: And I've always been that way in all my records. Like the last one I did, in the sense that I collect songs that I think I'm going to do on the record, this time I wrote some, which was really good, and it was because the time that I took to get to do it allowed that to happen.
PM: Yeah, I was very happy to see more original songs on this disc, even though we'll talk about your role as an interpreter, because I thought some of the originals--I thought "Handouts in the Rain" was an unbelievable song. I just keep listening to it.
RH: When it comes, it comes. I don't push it. And I think that for me, that's the only way. As a kid I wrote 29 rock 'n' roll songs a day.
PM: I hear you.
RH: But when I went to the village and I heard a different song, then I had to sing about what was happening to me, and to people I knew, and people in general, in that sense. Because I definitely know that I'm living in the becoming. [laughs] We're not there yet, and we're not going to be there until we become it.
RH: And what's happening now is what's forcing us to do so, I think, especially in the people that I've been singing to since 9/11. There's so many more of us that know better than ever before. And I think that's the biggest change to come from the whole thing. If it did anything, it woke everybody up to take a good look at what's going on around them.
PM: And a lot of people like me, it made me feel powerless. It's like, what do you do? I mean, are the democrats, for instance, going to come up with anybody reasonable to vote for, anybody who has a shot against W?
RH: Well, I think there's already a big shot against him, because you see the remnants falling apart now. I mean, Ari left. [Ari Fleisher, the Press Secetary]
PM: Right. What's behind that? Do you have any insight there?
RH: Well, I call it jumping ship. [laughs]
PM: Yeah, right.
RH: When it gets to the point where that guy goes, he knows what's coming. And the woman who was the head of the EPA, she also jumped, and both of them gave the same reason: "We don't want to be a part of the next regime that goes in. If we stay, we're going to have to be campaigning for this guy."
PM: Wow. I thought Ari Fleischer said something about, "I've got to spend time with my family," or whatever, the usual lines.
RH: Yeah, yeah. That was his second reason. The first one was, "Well, if I stayed around, I'd have to go through the campaign, and be a part of the next group."
PM: Oh, my!
RH: And he said it, then he had to clean it up a little bit. But they both said that. So it seems to be falling apart--because basically, if you notice, there's no news from Iraq now. And it's because there's so much trouble going on there, they don't want us to see that part.
PM: Right. Nothing but trouble.
RH: Nothing but trouble. And now they're going to have to deal with it. It is the next Vietnam for us, in that sense. However, I think the people are going to wake up to the point where they shut it down. That's also building, which we don't hear about.
PM: You mean the people over there are going to shut it down?
RH: The people here. continue