The final act of this year’s BAM Rhythm & Blues Festival at MetroTech was an appearance by the legendary folk singer Richie Havens, who was the opening act at the Woodstock Festival.
He grew up in Brooklyn, sharing a crowded Bedford-Stuyvesant house with nine siblings (“and one bathroom”), many of whom attended today’s outdoor concert in Downtown Brooklyn.
The 67-year old musician performed old hits (Freedom, Here Comes the Sun) as well as songs from his latest CD, discussed his passions, travels, and family, and frequently paused to say how delighted he was to be back home in Brooklyn.
The crowd erupted in whoops and cheers whenever he mentioned a familiar Brooklyn landmark or street, and he described memories of local street corners and stickball.
He was briefly joined onstage by Marcus Carl Franklin, with whom he appeared in the Todd Haynes film I’m Not There. While Havens played, Franklin sang Tombstone Blues and When the Ship Comes In, the Bob Dylan songs he performed in the film, and topped it off with a spirited buck and wing.
At the end of his set, Havens sat at a picnic table under the trees, happily signing autographs and chatting with throngs of devoted fans. “No pushing!,” cried a security guard. “Don’t push, he’ll be here as long as you need him. He’ll stay to the end.”