The Death Whisperer Series

The Death Whisperer Series
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Sunday, September 4, 2011

Richie Havens & Rockledge Pinot Noir

Tonight I’m featuring one of my favorite folk/guitarists from the 70’s, namely Mr. Richie Havens. Born in Brooklyn on July 21st, 1941, Havens was the eldest of nine children. At an early age, he began organizing his neighborhood friends into street corner do-wop groups and was performing with The McCrea Gospel Singers at 16. At age 20, Havens left Brooklyn, seeking artistic stimulation in Greenwich Village. He saw the Village as a place to escape to, in order to express himself. He had first went there during the beatnik days of the 1950s to perform poetry, then drew portraits for two years and stayed up all night listening to folk music in the clubs. It took a while before he thought of picking up a guitar.

Havens' reputation as a live performer earned him widespread notice. His Woodstock appearance proved to be a major turning point in his career. As the festival's first performer, he held the crowd for nearly three hours (in part because he was told to perform a lengthy set because many artists were delayed in reaching the festival location), and was called back for several encores. What is incredible to me is that the song, :Motherless Child/Freedom that became both Havens and a Woodstock anthem was completely improvised after he ran out of tunes

Following the success of his Woodstock performance, Richie started his own record label, Stormy Forest, and delivered Stonhenge, one of my favorite albums of the 1970’s. Havens uses open tunings and, although his chords are not difficult, his rhythms are incredible. You might notice, as I did when I sat ten feet from him at a concert he gave at my alma mater, DePauw University, that he sings without his upper false teeth. It’s an interesting little fact, but doesn’t diminish the virtuosity of one of the great folk guitarists of modern times.

I’m going to pair Richie with a 2010 Rockledge Pinot Noir ($20.00). This is a concentrated wine with Burgundian balance rarely found in a Carneros Pinot Noir. It’s deep ruby color explodes with a nose of cherries, raspberries, and cranberries, while the palate is full of intense red fruit. Nice long finish with moderate alcohol content. Very nice for listening to vintage folk guitar on a cool night that signals the end of summer. Enjoy!


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