In 1967, two years before he gained worldwide fame as the unintended opening act at the Woodstock Music & Arts Fair, Richie Havens made his first foray as a recording artist outside of New York.
He landed in Detroit — to his initial chagrin at a place called Johnny’s Jazz Joint.
“I flipped out,” recalls the Brooklynborn singer-songwriter, who last year released his 27th album, “Nobody Left to Crown.”
“I’m like, ‘Why did they do this to me? I’m not a jazz singer.’ I’d never really seen myself play, on TV or anything, so I didn’t know what I was, you know?
“Then I walked up to the window and looked at this sheet of paper that says, ‘Richie Havens, folk/jazz singer.’ I went, ‘Really? Is that what I am? Is that what I do?’ So I walked in there and figured all I had to do was what I do, and believe it or not the crowd went crazy. It blew my mind.”
Havens, 68, has had many more adventures over the years — at folk and blues clubs, major festivals of all kinds, at Bill Clinton’s presidential inauguration in 1993 and back to the Woodstock grounds for the A Day in the Garden Festival in 1999. But he’s firm in his conviction that he’s nowhere near the end of his career, which is borne out by “Nobody Left to Crown,” which features a batch of original songs along with covers of the Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” Jackson Browne’s “Lives in the Balance” and Peter Yarrow’s “The Great Mandala.”
“The soul of Greenwich Village, that ghost is still there, still calling to people,” Havens says. “I don’t think that’s ever going away. We might make that 70th year. We don’t feel like we’re going into any overpass. It’s reality time, and my actuality is still writing songs and playing music.”
Richie Havens and Harry Manx perform at 8 p.m. Friday (April 17) at the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts, 44575 Garfield Road, Clinton Twp. Tickets are $30-50. Call (586) 286-2141 or visit www.macombcenter.com.
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