Most Wanted! Richie Havens – Going Back To My Roots (Elektra)
To be honest, apart from very rare exceptions, I have to admit I’ve always tended to prefer the original versions. But even though Lamont Dozier‘s ‘Going Back To My Roots’ most likely made it, its interpretation by the likes of Richie Havens definitely brought it to the next level. Pretty much deserving the listen if ever you happen to have missed it…
As a matter of fact, he would give it a unique and somehow more energetic feel. Surrounding himself with Nigerian legendary drummer Babatunde Olatunji. A man whom you might remember of for the original version of ‘Jingo’ which Candido covered back in 1979 on Salsoul Records. But also David LeBolt on keyboards and David Woolford on sax.
Ironically, Elektra didn’t give it a single release Stateside. No more than in The U.K. where it only saw the light as an ultra rare test pressing. This meaning that we only could get it as a part of Havens‘s 1980 ‘Connections’ album. Or in Italy and Spain where it saw the light as a 7 inch. Meanwhile NYC Easy Street label subdivision Week Off would pay justice to it with a 12″ release by the end of the 80’s.
Odyssey also happened to cover it in 1981. And so did Italian House outfit F.P.I. Project although they retitled it ‘Rich In Paradise (Going Back To My Roots)’.
A Brooklyn native of a Blackfoot descent, singer/guitarist Richie Havens pretty much acted like a so to say transgressor. With his music encompassing elements of Rock, Rhythm & Blues and Soul. The first things coming to mind when listening to his repertoire are without a doubt his intense rhythmic guitar play which, combined with the unique tone of his voice, gave his music an unequalled energy.
Havens started putting together street Doo-Wop groups with neighbours before joining Gospel singers The McCrae at the age of 14. Infos vary from a source to another regarding the release dates of his 60’s first albums. Anyway, he ended up signing with Bob Dylan‘s manager, Albert Grossman, which led him to land a record deal with Verve Folkways (later Verve Forecast).
He most likely came to major recognition on the heels of his memorable performance at the Woodstock festival back in 1969. There, he held the crowd for nearly 3 hours. Filling the gap left by the absence of artists whoi got delayed while searching for the location of the festival.
Richie Havens launched his own label – Stormy Fest – the year after. Eventually covering George Harrison’s classic ‘Here Comes The Sun’, on his ‘Alarm Clock’ album. He would also start acting at the time. Getting a role in the 1972 stage presentation of ‘The Who’s Tommy’. A Rock musical with music and lyrics by Pete Townshend and book by the latter and Des McAnuff, based on The Who’s 1969 rock opera ‘Tommy’. Then in 1974, he appeared as Othello in Patrick McGoohan’s directed film ‘Catch My Soul’.
Havens shared the duties with Richard Pryor, Beau Bridges and Pam Grier 3 years after in ‘Greased Lightning’. And he also appeared on Bob Dylan‘s 1987 ‘Hearts Of Fire’ which received poor reviews and a limited theatrical release. Meanwhile, he also pretty much devoted himself to educating young people about ecological issues.
Regularly doin’ cover versions, Richie Havens gave his own interpretation of Lamont Dozier‘s ‘Going Back To My Roots’ back in 1980. Eventually hiring Nigerian legendary drummer Babatunde Olatunji. Taken from his ‘Connections’ album, his label back then – Elektra – didn’t even give it a single release. To the sole exception of their Italian and Spanish representations.
Quite surprisingly, one could see the man teaming up with Electronic Music duo Groove Armada on ‘Hands Of Time’ back in 2000. Eventually appearing as a guest the year after on ‘Little By Little’ and ‘Healing’, from their ‘Goodbye Country (Hello Nightclub)’ album.
Richie Havens has released a total of 26 albums with his latest – ‘Nobody Left To Crown’ back in 2008.
In 2010, a kidney surgery forced Havens to drastically reduce his performances, before totally stopping from March 2012. He died the year after, on Apr. 22, 2013, of a heart attack in his home in Jersey City, aged 72.
Upon his request, his ashes got scattered from a plane over the site of the Woodstock festival, in a ceremony held on Aug. 18, 2013 that marked the 44th anniversary of the last day of the festival…