A lot of my musical journey had to do with the music of my parents. My path was rife with not only the obvious music of my father, but with a large 45 and LP collection that my mother had. That led me to a rather rich tapestry that included a great deal of amazing music. Ray Charles, The Beatles, tons of Motown, Bob Dylan, Cream, James Brown, and so much more.
All of this brought me, ultimately, to an obsession with counter culture music. I discovered Hendrix from “Twilight Zone – The Movie”, oddly enough. That caused me to watch the Movie “Woodstock” where I was introduced to Richie Havens. It wasn’t exactly what I was looking for at the time, but I certainly recognized his genius, even at 13 or so. Greater appreciation would come in droves later.
In 1993, I flew out to Los Angeles to record some vocal and guitar parts on my dad’s (Steve Young ) “Switchblades of Love” album. There was quite a bit of downtime, so I ended up killing some time when I wasn’t needed in the studio by hanging out with family friend Danny Ferrington. He was interested in going to the Troubadours of Folk Festival that was taking place on the UCLA campus. And he had back stage access. Off we went!
I guess I was 22, maybe 23… I just can’t seem to remember exactly what time of year this was all going down. That’s what happens when you get old. There were a ton of amazing acts booked at this show. Among the greats I saw at this one show were Taj Mahal, Richard Thompson, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Peter, Paul & Mary, Pete Seeger, The Folksmen (this was, of course, Christopher Guest, Michael McKeon, and Harry Shearer, but pre-“Mighty Wind”) and the great Richie Havens.
Backstage, I met the likes of Matt Groening, The Simpsons creator. Totally cool. The highlight of the non-musical acts had to have been Beverly DeAngelo, who I had been crushing on since, like, forever. Probably “Every Which Way But Loose”.
But seeing Richie Havens was a definite highlight for this cat. His obvious passion and unique delivery had made a definite impression on me over the years. He was amazing on this day, as always. I recall one thing really standing out to me at the time. There was a phrase going around at the time that said, “The 90s are going to make the 60s look like the 50s”. I even had the button. I was hopeful. I was ready. I was sure there needed to be another youth rebellion. But Richie nailed it. He went off on a diatribe about this phrase, which he had heard, and told the crowd how ridiculous this was. As much as I hated to hear it, I knew he was right. He more or less said that the 90s probably wouldn’t even challenge the status quo any more than the 50s did. Ouch!
He was right, of course.
I think as I have aged, I have realized that movements, like the one in the 60s, are worth examining longer than 30 years. They’re also dependent upon certain specific circumstances that just don’t come along all that often. I was crushed… I so wanted things to change, and I wanted to be a part of it, but it wasn’t coming.
Richie was ultimately right. My generation was completely incapable of pulling off another youth rebellion. It just was never going to happen. It might have looked good on a button, but we were never going to pull it off. We were too comfortable, and our war didn’t even last long enough to organize our movement. That’s what we were actually good at: coming up with blustery things to put on buttons.
Whatever the case, a hell of a lot of amazing music came out of the late 60s. Including Richie Havens, who at age 72, departed this world today. Godspeed, Richie. It mattered. You touched my life, for sure. And I know you touched the lives of millions of others. The great mystery is yours to discover now.
Here’s Richie doing a Dylan Classic.
~ Jubal Lee Young
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