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Richie Havens

A Conversation with Richie Havens (continued)

PM: But how are they going to shut it down? I mean, isn't it going to take--

RH: Well, first of all, they can do it by how they vote.

PM: Right.

RH: And I don't believe--I mean, if you take into account that when the Republicans do their polls, they basically open it up to all the voters, and only voters. But if you're a Republican and you like what's happening, you're going to be the one that takes the call. The other guys ain't even going to bother.

PM: Yeah.

RH: So you get 79% percent of the American people supporting the war. Well, that's not 79% of the American people, it's 79% of the Republican voters. You hear them touting that number, but it comes down to the fact that you see a march in New York of almost a million people against the war, and when you see the Republican response and it's only 92 people, you know better.

PM: Yeah.

RH: I mean, I get it from everyone. And there are so many more of us than not.

PM: You're doing a lot of dates, aren't you?

RH: Yeah, I'm on the road every weekend, all year round, since I started.

PM: Wow.

PM: Who are you out with these days?

RH: Well, it's mostly local, because that's the way it should be, in a way. As far as I'm concerned. I very seldom take anybody out with me.

PM: Are you playing solo?

RH: No. I play with two other guitar players, and sometimes a conga drum.

PM: Is Walter [Parks, a fine musician and graphic artist] out these days with you?

RH: Yes. Walter is with me, and Billy Perry.

PM: Ah, Billy Perry. Yeah, Walter is a friend of mine.

RH: Yeah, Walter is a good guy. Incredible player.

PM: Yeah, he's a terrific player. Is that his photo on the inside of the CD booklet, of you walking across a lawn toward a wood?

RH: Oh, yes, it is. All of those photos are Walter's.

PM: That is an unbelievable photo.

RH: Yeah, he's a beautiful guy. And he's got a good eye, he really does. He's good. We stop every once in a while, sit down and talk, and as I'm leaving he takes a picture. [laughs] You know what I mean? It's that kind of stuff.

PM: Wow. And his buddy Dana Kurtz sings on the record. She's a very talented singer.

RH: Yeah, she's really special. A lot of times, when we end up in the same place around the country, she opens for me, which is nice. And so then, if anyone's been around with me, mostly it's been her.

PM: I was really blown away by a short statement in your bio that seemed to say it all: "I'm not in show business, I'm in the communications business."

RH: Oh, yeah. Yeah, I found that out when I went to the village, when I left doo-wop. [laughs]

PM: Yeah.

RH: That's when I left show business. And then I knew it because it was the songs that made me pick up the guitar when I got to Greenwich Village. It was definitely the songs. Lyrics were chief. All of the guys I was lucky enough to come to the village in time to catch--it was amazing, truly amazing.

PM: You know, I really enjoyed hearing your guitar style again. It's such a full and grooving sound.

RH: Unfortunately, when you have to deal with business at times, they don't hear it. [laughs] Because I've done a lot of records where I didn't even play, on the way up here. But every chance I get, I go back to it. If I'm putting out the record myself, for sure, I definitely go back to that. It has to be there.

PM: Yeah. I mean, along with your vocal sound, naturally, your guitar playing really has a lot to do with the trancelike quality that your music produces, right?

RH: Yes, I would say so. It definitely is something I don't think about. [laughs] A lot of it's bending notes and suspension. Those places that are not concrete, the atmosphere.

PM: That's an old Guild guitar, isn't it?

RH: Yeah.

PM: If you don't mind descending into the technical, what flat picks are you using, and how heavy are they?

RH: I use a medium pick, and it's the big Taco Bass Chips.

PM: Ahh.


RH: Yeah. I can't use anything else. If I try it with a little pick, I couldn't play at all.  continue

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