Remember that song from the early 90s by Cracker, the one with the line “What the world needs now is another folk singer/Like I need a hole in the head”? I always assumed that line was about Jewel, even though the song in which it appears was released a few years before anyone had heard of Jewel. Turns out I was wrong. It’s actually about every so-called “folk” singer who came after Richie Havens. And for you younger readers who are wondering just who the heck Richie Havens is, well, he’s a folk singer, dummies. And more than that, Richie Havens is exactly what you picture when you think of a folk singer. Strumming his acoustic guitar so hard you think he must be mad at it. Singing songs about freedom and the devastation of war and violence and poverty and ignorance. Opening Woodstock.
Sure, you knew that Jimi Hendrix was the last artist to perform at Woodstock (and you may have known that the next to last artist was Sha Na Na, but that’s neither here nor there), but you probably didn’t know that the first was an at the time unknown folk singer named Richie Havens. It was his appearance at the legendary music festival, and in the subsequent film, that catapulted Havens into the consciousness of a worldwide audience, and set the stage for a varied career that has included nearly 30 albums, film and stage acting roles, political and environmental activism and the ability to sport so many turquoise rings and bone and bead necklaces that he resembles a hippie Mr. T. And this January, Richie Havens is coming to Fort Smith, AR.
I don’t have the space to lay out Richie Havens’ entire list of achievements, so you’ll just have to trust me when I tell you it’s impressive. Instead, I’ll give you a few reasons why you should make the trip to For t Smith to check out the show.
First off, there’s a chance you could meet the president. Okay, maybe not the current president, but still. You see, Richie Havens performed at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton back in 1992. Chances are they’re still pals. President Clinton is from Arkansas. The show’s in Arkansas. I’m not saying it’s gonna happen, I’m just telling you there’s a chance.
Secondly, you’ll have a rare opportunity to hear Bob Dylan songs performed live and be able to actually understand the words. Richie Havens has a reputation as a premier interpreter of Dylan songs, and he’s even released an album of Dylan covers. He has a clear, strong, soulful voice. Bob Dylan has a voice made for, um, song writing.
Lastly, the Dalai Lama is a huge fan. A few years back, His Holiness The Dalai Lama requested Havens sing his songs “Lives in the Balance” and “Freedom” at a performance in Los Angeles. This Dalai Lama is 75 years old and the 14th incarnation of the Buddha of Compassion, which means he’s an enlightened being who has been reincarnated 13 times previously, which means he’s seen a lot of cool bands and artists over the years, which means he knows a good folk singer when he hears one. And he thinks Richie Havens is pretty cool. The Dalai Lama knows what Cracker knows. Once there’s a Richie Havens, the world doesn’t really need another folk singer.
Don’t miss your opportunity to become enlightened just like the Dalai Lama when Richie Havens plays the Second Street Live Theater in beautiful Fort Smith on Wednesday, January 12 at 7:30pm. Tickets are $50 and can be purchased at www.secondstreetlive.com. The Second Street Live Theater is located at 101 North Second Avenue in Fort Smith.