Every article I have written in the last 10 months or so, I wrote with the hope of bringing lightness to a pretty dark time.
No need to list all the inconveniences and fears that we are experiencing during these bizarre days, so I thought this week I’d share one of my favorite memories with you in as much detail as I can recall. As Joe Friday on Dragnet would say, “Just the facts, ma’am, just the facts.”
My saga has three parts. I have the first part remarkably down pat and the last chapter as well. But there was a big fat hole in the middle that no amount of brain scratching or Googling helped.
With old skip tracing skills learned from working at a bank in my youth, I located somebody who could bridge the gap to my story. Unfortunately, the subject of my story has passed on but his enthusiastic fan base, me included, lives on. There is a Facebook fan page, and I proposed my dilemma there. These wonderful fellow hippies and fans jumped on and the gap was closed.
Woodstock was a marvelous experience, and the first man on stage was a reluctant and soft-spoken folk singer named Richie Havens. Not scheduled until later in the day, the scheduled first act was delayed due to the traffic, so Havens was shuffled onto the stage in front of almost 500,000 fans with only an acoustic guitar and his voice. I am not delusional and realize the first chapter of this short trilogy is just a prelude to the good stuff, even though he was out of sequence and had to play a longer set than planned, it turned out to be a most memorable performance but pretty intimidating for him.
Fast forward to 1970 and the eerily mysterious festival that never was. A slew of acts, including the Grateful Dead, John Sebastian and The Kinks didn’t show because of a local court order, although the particulars of that order are vague. The Mountaindale, New York outdoor music and film festivals, known as Worth Point, were to run from July through August. Even though all shows were canceled, Havens, who arrived by helicopter just before dawn, decided to hang around and play at the impromptu “People’s Party” for the kids that made the trip. He looked up at the sky and started playing his amazing version of The Beatles’ hit “Here Comes the Sun” as the sun did just that. It was magical. I was a 19-year-old mesmerized by his grace.
Spin the hands of time forward to 1979 when this Brooklyn and Long Island girl was living in California for about a year. The Berkeley Theater advertised a Havens concert with The Unknown Comic, Murray Langston as the opening act. I jumped at the opportunity to see Havens again. From his “Gong Show” fame, Langston wore a paper sack over his head, ergo the unknown part, and told corny jokes. After his set, I made a mad dash to the ladies room so I would not miss a note of Havens. Headed into the lobby, I literally bumped into the singer, and he was as gracious as I remembered. We chatted for a few moments, and I reminded him of that song that touched the small crowd at Mountaindale so many years ago. He smiled, hugged me and was off to perform. As the band tuned up, Havens turned around and said, “Hold on guys, this is for my friend.” He then picked up that acoustic guitar and played “Here Comes the Sun.” I could feel the tears well up as I knew it was for me. It was by far the best experience I ever had at a concert, including maybe even Woodstock!
Memories are so important, especially now. The times that were more normal are no longer taken for granted, and music brings so many of these wonderful recollections back all the time. Crank up your favorite tunes, dance in your living room, smile and recall a gentler time. I guarantee they will return soon, and we can start making more memories, together again. Stay safe, stay well and PEACE.
Marla Luckhardt is a Brentwood resident who works with several local senior care and advocacy groups. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.