Letters 10-24-2016

It’s Obama’s 1984 Several editions ago I concluded a short letter to the editor with an ominous rhetorical flourish: “Welcome to George Orwell’s 1984 and the grand opening of the Federal Department of Truth!” At the time I am sure most of the readers laughed off my comments as right-wing hyperbole. Shame on you for doubting me...

Gun Bans Don’t Work It is said that mass violence only happens in the USA. A lone gunman in a rubber boat, drifted ashore at a popular resort in Tunisia and randomly shot and killed 38 mostly British and Irish tourists. Tunisian gun laws, which are among the most restrictive in the world, didn’t stop this mass slaughter. And in January 2015, two armed men killed 11 and wounded 11 others in an attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. French gun laws didn’t stop these assassins...

Scripps’ Good Deed No good deed shall go unpunished! When Dan Scripps was the 101st District State Representative, he introduced legislation to prevent corporations from contaminating (e.g. fracking) or depleting (e.g. Nestle) Michigan’s water table for corporate profit. There are no property lines in the water table, and many of us depend on private wells for abundant, safe, clean water. In the subsequent election, Dan’s opponents ran a negative campaign almost solely on the misrepresentation that Dan’s good deed was a government takeover of your private water well...

Political Definitions As the time to vote draws near it’s a good time to check into what you stand for. According to Dictionary.com the meanings for liberal and conservative are as follows:

Liberal: Favorable to progress or reform as in political or religious affairs.

Conservative: Disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditions and limit change...

Voting Takes A Month? Hurricane Matthew hit the Florida coast Oct. 6, over three weeks before Election Day. Bob Ross (Oct. 17th issue) posits that perhaps evacuation orders from Governor Scott may have had political motivations to diminish turnout and seems to praise Hillary Clinton’s call for Gov. Scott to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline due to evacuations...

Clinton Foundation Facts Does the Clinton Foundation really spend a mere 10 percent (per Mike Pence) or 20 percent (per Reince Priebus) of its money on charity? Not true. Charity Watch gives it an A rating (the same as it gives the NRA Foundation) and says it spends 88 percent on charitable causes, and 12 percent on overhead. Here is the source of the misunderstanding: The Foundation does give only a small percentage of its money to charitable organizations, but it spends far more money directly running a number of programs...

America Needs Change Trump supports our constitution, will appoint judges that will keep our freedoms safe. He supports the partial-birth ban; Hillary voted against it. Regardless of how you feel about Trump, critical issues are at stake. Trump will increase national security, monitor refugee admissions, endorse our vital military forces while fighting ISIS. Vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence will be an intelligent asset for the country. Hillary wants open borders, increased government regulation, and more demilitarization at a time when we need strong military defenses...

My Process For No I will be voting “no” on Prop 3 because I am supportive of the process that is in place to review and approve developments. I was on the Traverse City Planning Commission in the 1990s and gained an appreciation for all of the work that goes into a review. The staff reviews the project and makes a recommendation. The developer then makes a presentation, and fellow commissioners and the public can ask questions and make comments. By the end of the process, I knew how to vote for a project, up or down. This process then repeats itself at the City Commission...

Regarding Your Postcard If you received a “Vote No” postcard from StandUp TC, don’t believe their lies. Prop 3 is not illegal. It won’t cost city taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal bills or special elections. Prop 3 is about protecting our downtown -- not Munson, NMC or the Commons -- from a future of ugly skyscrapers that will diminish the very character of our downtown...

Vote Yes It has been suggested that a recall or re-election of current city staff and Traverse City Commission would work better than Prop 3. I disagree. A recall campaign is the most divisive, costly type of election possible. Prop 3, when passed, will allow all city residents an opportunity to vote on any proposed development over 60 feet tall at no cost to the taxpayer...

Yes Vote Explained A “yes” vote on Prop 3 will give Traverse City the right to vote on developments over 60 feet high. It doesn’t require votes on every future building, as incorrectly stated by a previous letter writer. If referendums are held during general elections, taxpayers pay nothing...

Beware Trump When the country you love have have served for 33 years is threatened, you have an obligation and a duty to speak out. Now is the time for all Americans to speak out against a possible Donald Trump presidency. During the past year Trump has been exposed as a pathological liar, a demagogue and a person who is totally unfit to assume the presidency of our already great country...

Picture Worth 1,000 Words Nobody disagrees with the need for affordable housing or that a certain level of density is dollar smart for TC. The issue is the proposed solution. If you haven’t already seen the architect’s rendition for the site, please Google “Pine Street Development Traverse City”...

Living Wage, Not Tall Buildings Our community deserves better than the StandUp TC “vote no” arguments. They are not truthful. Their yard signs say: “More Housing. Less Red Tape. Vote like you want your kids to live here.” The truth: More housing, but for whom? At what price..

Home · Articles · News · Music · Ritchie Havens
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Ritchie Havens

Robert Downes - May 5th, 2008
Richie Havens sure seems to be having a good time.
In fact, the folk legend has been on a roll for more than 40 years now in a life filled with honors, wisdom, travel, friends, and always the joy of making some of the most singular music in American history.
Havens, 67, is performing in Northern Michigan twice this summer, starting with a show at the Traverse City Opera House this Friday, May 9 at 8 p.m., and again at the Dunegrass and Blues Festival in August. Between those gigs, you’ll find him flying back and forth between Colorado, Oregon, New York, Paris, Switzerland and Monaco, among other destinations.
“I’m always traveling,” he says in a phone interview. “I started out playing six days a week for the first seven years of my career, and for the past 29 years it’s been every weekend all year ’round.”
Havens is a living treasure of Americana. Like Bob Dylan and Peter, Paul & Mary, he was one of the seminal influences and players in the Greenwich Village folk scene in the late ’50s and early ’60s, and has maintained an enduring popularity ever since.

Born the eldest of nine children into a musical family in Brooklyn (his father played piano by ear), Havens performed in street-corner doo-wop bands in the ’50s, singing a cappella harmonies in his rich baritone.
But the times, they were a-changin’. An artist as well as a singer, he began drawing portraits at the age of 20 on the streets and squares of Greenwich Village during its beatnik days, gravitating to the poetry and folk music of its clubs. By the early ’60s, he was a regular in the audience at the clubs, singing along with the performers.
“One night I was sitting in the audience singing, and Fred Neil (“Dolphins,” “Tear Down the Walls”) called out from the stage: ‘Richie, why don’t you learn to play the guitar and get up here? You’re singing all of our songs already.’”
Although it had never occurred to Havens to play the guitar, that’s just what he did, learning the instrument on the spot and chancing upon his unusual style by a stroke of luck. Rather than learning how to play with a standard tuning in the traditional manner, Havens tuned his guitar to an open chord, which allowed him to strum away, using his thumb to fret the instrument.
Havens has played the guitar as an open chord instrument ever since, tuning his acoustic D40 Guild guitar to DADF#AD. He also reaches incredible speeds with his strumming technique for sustained periods of time -- a feat which requires both strength and stamina.
“The weird part of it is I don’t even think about playing,” he says. “I don’t try to play slow or fast -- I just play however the mood strikes me. I’m just accompanying my voice, and my playing can be slower one day and faster the next.”
Havens also never knows exactly what songs he’ll perform at a show.
“I never work on a set list -- I only know the first and last song I’ll perform,” he says, adding that he feels out the audience and intuits what to play. “I’ve had more than 100 people come up to me after shows and say they were amazed that I performed three songs in a row that they wanted to hear, and how did I know what they were thinking? Somehow, I just know.”
Havens soon made a name for himself in Greenwich Village, with mentoring by singer Nina Simone and songwriters Fred Neil and Dino Valenti. After being signed by Bob Dylan’s legendary manager, Albert Grossman, he released his first album, “Mixed Bag” on Verve in 1967.
But it was his power of intuition and improvisation that led to one of the most memorable performances of the 20th century when he opened the Woodstock Music Festival in 1969. He played for 400,000 people for three hours, getting one encore after another for his bravura performance. Finally, having run out of songs, he performed the spiritual “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child,” and started riffing with the vocal tag line of “Freedom” to symbolize the power of the ‘60s youth movement. The electrifying, on-the-spot synthesis of emotion and music is considered by many critics to be the best performance in the film “Woodstock,” securing Richie Havens’ career as a must-see act for all time.
But there’s a paradox about Havens. Although he’s clearly a creative soul and enjoys painting, drawing and sculpting in his studio in Hoboken, New Jersey, he’s written relatively few of his own songs.
He’s best known as an interpreter of other musicians’ work, most notably Bob Dylan on tunes such as “Just Like a Woman” (which was the standout performance at big Bob’s 60th birthday tribute bash). Havens is also noted for his remake of the Beatles’ tune, “Here Comes the Sun.”
He’s influenced other musicians as well: back in his Greenwich Village days, he taught a little-known musician named Jimmy James how to play Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower.” Jimmy ditched his band, The Flames, and reinvented himself as Jimi Hendrix, with the song becoming one of his biggest hits.

Havens has written more of his own songs in recent years however. “I wrote most of the songs on my last two albums,” he says, “and it’s funny, but all of the songs I wrote were in keys I’ve never sang in before.”
His new album, “Nobody Left to Crown,” comes out this year, with the title song being one of optimism in the face of adversity. “One thing I’ve seldom done is to name an album by the title of a song,” he says. “But this song seems to fit: it says we should be crowning ourselves for all the hassles we’ve had to go through just to be normal in these times. We should be patting ourselves on our backs.”
Given that he travels constantly and was a child of one of the richest musical scenes in American history, does he ever run across anyplace similar to Greenwich Village in its hey-day?
“Yes, I’ve been surprised to see that kind of scene happening in the Lower East Side of Manhattan,” he responds. “It used to be just barren down there, but now there are all kinds of music clubs and cafes and it’s the same atmosphere as Greenwich Village in 1958. It’s like New Orleans used to be, and 90 percent of the musicians are real good.”
What kind of advice would he give to young singer-songwriters?
“Make sure that you can be heard by the public in any place that allows you to play,” he says. “And don’t chase anything, because eventually, that will start chasing you. Remember that you are the show, the instrument, the words and ideas.”
“For bands trying to make it, I know that a lot of them save their best song for last, so I always tell them to play their last song first,” he adds. “Because if you can knock ’em out in the audience from the very beginning, you set the mood for the whole night.”
Count on Richie Havens to knock ’em out from beginning to end at his upcoming shows in Northern Michigan.

Richie Havens performs Friday, May 9 at 8 p.m. at the TC Opera House, with tickets $35-$50.
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