January 21 is the birthday anniversary of Richie Havens; we lost Richie in 2013. The article below was written in 2010:
MEETING RICHIE HAVENS
My husband and I are fans of Richie Havens; I since 1966 and Gerald since 1968. We have seen him in concert 20 times. He has never failed to deliver a marvelous performance. We first saw him in 1969; however, in the intervening years, he has gone from performing in arenas and stadiums to small venues. We were never able to talk to him until two years ago.
In 1969, there was a virtually unknown performer as Richie's opening act: Bruce Springsteen. I can remember Gerald leaning over and saying, "Boy, that guy's GOOD!" We became immediate Springsteen fans. Bruce, the opening act, received a standing ovation.
Two years ago, Richie's website showed that he would be playing at a night club in Cleveland. In my mind, I guess I was thinking that the "night club" would be similar to the Copacabana. I insisted that we would have to "get really dressed up" for the event. I made reservations for "ringside seats" and we drove to Cleveland and checked into our motel. When we told the clerk why we were in town, he said that Richie was staying there also. The clerk said, "If you don't get to meet him at the club, I'll be sure to introduce you; he stays here whenever he's in town."
When we arrived at the venue, there was no valet parking. We walked in and there were tables covered with oil cloth (and with rings from glasses and cigarette burns on the oil cloth) and guys sitting at the bar were wearing flannel shirts and jeans. Of course, I was expecting a grand stage show but this wasn't exactly the Copa. The word "dive" crossed my mind and if my feet hadn't hurt so bad from those high heels I was wearing, I wouldn't have sat down at a table in the bar.
Gerald went to the bar and asked where Richie was going to perform and the bartender gestured toward an area to the rear of the bar. We went in and found our reserved table. There were just eight tables around the stage and the rest of the area seating was just rows of folding chairs.
Did I mention we were overdressed? The dress code was obviously "early hippie"; the crowd was amazingly diverse in age; there were a number of young people as well as people of our age group. The audience was very enthusiastic.
Richie put on a wonderful performance combining both old and new material; practically all old songs received standing ovations.
I was disappointed, however, that he did not perform my favorite song, Bob Dylan's Just Like A Woman.
I had said to Gerald that we might be able to get his autograph after all these years. I had brought my copy of Richie's autobiography and Gerald bought the new CD. When we got to the front of the line, Richie said, "So you're the ONE who bought my book!" I told him that several people in line had asked about it and he should have them on sale there also, along with the CDs.
I mentioned that he hadn't sung my favorite song. He asked which one and he said I should have yelled out a request. I leaned over and whispered a secret in Richie's ear. He looked at Gerald and asked, "Are you the one?" Gerald knew exactly what secret I had shared with Richie.
Gerald said, "Yes, I'm guilty!" Richie inscribed the book, "To Sue Just like a woman A friend forever Richie Havens". Richie and I began singing the song TOGETHER! That made my day, my week, my month, my year, my decade: singing Just Like A Woman with Richie Havens!
Last year for my birthday, we went to see Richie at Cain Park in Cleveland Heights; he was appearing with Arlo Guthrie. Again, there was a wide diversity of age groups, which continues to surprise me, but I have also seen the same age assortment at Dylan's concerts.
There was an intermission between Richie's portion of the concert and Arlo's portion and Richie had graciously consented to autograph CDs during the intermission. Gerald bought Richie's new CD to be autographed. I have no shame--I took the autobiography and he autographed it again--I also took 13 CDs to be autographed! [I had put away all of Richie's records and since Norman gave me a car CD player for for my birthday, I had to replace the albums with CDs] I know the people behind me in line HATED me for taking up so much of Richie's time, but I know that I'm his number one fan, so I risked their umbrage.
Arlo started to perform and the people behind me were restless as they also wanted to enjoy Arlo's concert, but there I was, hogging Richie's time. Gerald, ever the gentleman, suggested that we move aside to allow others behind us to have their autographs. We went to the back of the line.
When we came back, Richie was charming and accommodating and he asked us to sit with him and we watched the first half of Arlo's performance together. When Richie was ready to leave, he hugged me and told me he'd see me the next time.
It's marvelous when a person one has admired doesn't disappoint when one meets him in person.