September 20

This afternoon I’m going to a memorial to celebrate the life of my cousin Geraldine who passed away earlier this month.

Although she’d been in my life since I can remember, I didn’t really know my cousin that well. 15 years older than me, she was off making a life for herself by the time I came along. She had a wild side, that I knew, and she worked hard all her life for what she had.

My task for this morning is to pick out an album for her.

Nothing too raucous, something with some depth and simplicity. Something with its heart on its sleeve. It has to be honest, so a live recording, warts and all, would be appropriate. An album like this would fit her, I think.

So I finally settled on the 1969 double album from Richie Havens, Richard P havens 1983:

Though not a technically gifted guitar player (although he had the finest left thumb in the business) or a particularly dynamic singer, Havens manages to cut through all the bullshit and reach the essence of a song. His strength was his inventiveness… his improvisation, he could make up a song on the spot or mash a few chords together and sing any song he wanted over that playing.

For my money he was the best interpreter of Beatles songs out there… and there are several examples on this record. And his melding of blues, folk and world music was second to none.

The other thing I liked about Havens was his ability to hold an audience in a with just his hypnotic guitar strumming and the power of his voice. This album has several live tracks included that really highlight this talent.

Langston Hughes said “Life is for the living, death is for the dead, let life be like music, and death a note unsaid”.

So here’s to you Jeri, and to you Richie, let’s leave that note unsaid! May you live on in song forever.

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