The passing of a great man - April 2013

A friend once described a Havens show as 'like watching the whole of humanity perform.'

He had the Voice of Ages, the look of an Old Testament prophet and a modern singer all rolled into one. Like Hendrix, his approach flew across boundaries of black and white music. If a song moved him he sang it, whether self-penned or written by the Beatles or Pink Floyd. Somehow whatever he chose immediately became the definitive version. He embodied music without props. His opening Woodstock was actually an accident. He told me he had a friend who owned a helicopter which made him the first artist on site when others couldn't get through. He gave that legendary performance of Motherless Child. The whole spectacle centred on the way he sang the word 'Freedom' with that extraordinary voice of velvet and leather. When I later worked with him on Please Don't Touch he learned two new songs in seconds flat but sounded like he'd been singing them forever. I felt privileged to have seen him live at the Isle of Wight festival in 1970 singing into the night with a thunder storm raging. He just seemed to incorporate it into his act. He was the original rider on the storm. Thunder and lightning were his rhythm section.

Several years later we became friends. One evening after supporting Genesis at Earls Court he came to dinner and insisted on helping my mother to wash up. He had such a big heart in every way. All night I was dying to ask him if he would consider working with me. I was about to kick myself for missing the opportunity when he suddenly said 'Hey man, we should work together sometime...'

Some months down the line I was trying Transendental Meditation when I swear his voice popped into my head singing 'There are many things that I would rather do' from Icarus Ascending. I nervously phoned him up. He said 'I can hear it already. It sounds great man.' he was the conviction, the power and the glory... the most positive musical creative force it's ever been my privilege to work with.

The whole of humanity salutes you Richie. Thank you for being a friend to us all.

Steve Hackett and Richie Havens