By Gerald M. Gay
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 02.12.2009
Richie Havens won't soon forget the last time he played Tucson.
He came for a Hurricane Katrina benefit concert at the 17th Street
Market in 2006 on a personal invite from his old friend bassist
Harvey Brooks. Brooks helps run the music side of the store.
Instead of the smaller, in-store stage, Havens played the larger,
"It was a great transformation," Havens said in a recent phone
interview from Jersey City, N.J.. "It surprised me. I thought it was
Havens plays the Temple of Music & Art Sunday as part of the Rhythm &
Roots winter concert series.
Known best for his Woodstock "Freedom" anthem, he is in town to
promote his latest release, "Nobody Left to Crown."
How far back do you go with Harvey Brooks?
"Harvey played on 'Mixed Bag.' He played his first electric bass on
that record. He used to play upright. He came to the gig with the
upright and a brand-new electric bass he had gotten that day. He is a
good guy. We bump into each other out there from time to time."
A photo on your Web site features you in front of a polling station.
How did you feel when Barack Obama won the presidency?
"To tell you the truth, I knew it was going to happen. In fact,
Robert Kennedy told me. Robert, when he was running for president,
said in 1968 that he believed we would have an African-American
president in 40 years.
"I always carried that with me, and here we are."
Where did you watch the inauguration?
"I watched it on television. The most interesting thing about it was
that everybody allowed their emotional selves to rejoice when they
saw that things could really change.
"I think that we are in for a very interesting ride in terms of how
people are going to treat each other. We've done such a great job already."
You can hear a call for change on some of the original material found
on "Nobody Left to Crown." What is the songwriting process like for you?
"I don't really sit down to write anything. It comes to me. Once I
come up with that one line that starts it all, I unfold the whole
thing in 15 to 20 minutes. It is magic how things come together."
The release also has political covers, The Who's "Won't Get Fooled
Again," Jackson Browne's "Lives in the Balance" and Peter Yarrow's
"The Great Mandala." Why choose these songs?
"The cover songs on the album become the glue that I've been holding
on to, to one day put out in the right perspective. My right
perspective. These are the songs that I've always wanted to sing."