Poets & Prophets

Rock 'N' Roll is the global language, Richie Havens and Janis Ian are convinced. Whether or not the world began with Rock 'N' Roll, as Richie believes, Richie and Janis were there when it all began. Remarkably -- they're still at it. When others had their moment of glory, then faded into nostalgia, these two never quit. And they continue to work together whenever they can, as they did when Judy Collins invited them to join her "Wildflower Festival" tour.

Janis and Richie embody a powerful kind of optimism. In a nutshell? Freedom. And it?s not just because Richie's musical immortality was cemented when he opened Woodstock with that anthem of the '60s. The freedom they talk about has two absolute requirements -- responsibility and work. Janis is impatient with "I want it, so give it to me." She prefers to start from, "What do I have to do to get it?" Richie's carried freedom's banner around the world for almost 40 years and onto virtually every college campus in America at least 4 times over. He thinks of himself as driven by his early recognition that he was connected to the planet, not Brooklyn. Likewise, Janis at 50 is as vital as when she was the 15 year old wonder in 1966, bursting onto the scene with "Society's Child," then "17."

Richie and Janis are convinced the songs they wrote and sang -- and others? songs, particularly those of Bob Dylan -- helped start a revolution. Richie describes it as "The Becoming of America." He?s confident that that revolution became evolution and is now "The Becoming of the World." Richie puts enormous faith in young people born in and after the 1980s. He trusts them because they, too, know we all belong to the planet.

While both Richie and Janis continue to draw on their roots in the '60s, it's the future that calls to them. "Play like a girl!" Janis commands in her newest CD. "Speak up for the environment!" Richie demands as he tours the world.

Richie Havens


    ... musician. Woodstock's voice of "Freedom," Richie Havens is a timeless and unequivocal voice in popular music around the world. Deeply rooted in the folk/blues/pop traditions, he has been part of the world of music from the Greenwich Village folk scene in the early 1960s to the Presidential Inauguration in 1993. Known for stirring interpretations of artists as varied as Bob Dylan and the Beatles, Kris Kristofferson, Sting, and Richie's own wealth of socio-political-personal composition, he continues to tour the world.


Janis Ian


    ... musician. Internationally celebrated as singer-songwriter, Janis Ian was a 15 year old girl wonder, bursting onto the music scene in 1966 with "Society's Child," then "17". Seventeen albums and an impressive collection of Grammy Awards and nominations later, Janis? singular songs continue to attract the world?s great artists to her powerful lyrics and melodies. Her following is world-wide. In addition to a heavy touring schedule and charity projects, she continues writing songs and a monthly column for "Performing Songwriter Magazine."

Richie counts himself lucky to be in the first generation (following World War Two) where everything was absolutely Brand New. It's a vision for which he thinks people around the world hunger -- a place where everything's possible and you can be what you want to be. At the same time, Janis is savoring the "Zen" quality of being old enough to strip down to what's essential -- one's individual authenticity.

America, they both sing out, is obliged to make a difference for everyone else in the world. To do so, Richie and Janis call us all, wherever we are, both to lead and to follow. They expect changes will be as unexpected and dramatic as the revolution of which both were a part. But just consider the power that's been harnessed. Rock'N'Roll lured one whole generation to rebel against the suffocating uniform of the moment, to create community in the parched numbness of the '50s. And now it's everywhere.

[This Program was recorded August 1, 2001, in Atlanta, Georgia, US.]

Conversation 1

Janis Ian and Richie Havens remember growing up in the 1940s and 50s. They tell Paula Gordon and Bill Russell what life was like before Rock 'N' Roll.


Conversation 2

Both artists describe why they think some musicians survived over the decades, as others disappeared. Richie considers the rebellion of an entire generation, around the world. He explains why he believes the U.S. is still "becoming America." Janis points to the effect of the political assassinations of the '60s. Richie suggests a turn from revolution to evolution averted chaos in America. Janis talks about the unifying leadership role of music. They both describe Rock 'N' Roll as a social phenomenon. Bob Dylan's power, influence and force are considered.


Conversation 3

What's really going on in America? Janis and Richie describe what they have seen over decades performing and touring. Both talk about Freedom. Janis describes the liberation that came with turning 50. Richie sees a profound social movement away from categorizing Americans by minority status. Both Janis and Richie reach into their careers for examples of how America has changed. Janis reminds us of the responsibility that comes with freedom. She names several of her heroes and tells us why she admires them, then regretfully excuses herself.


Conversation 4

Richie Havens continues the exploration of "freedom" -- a lot more than the song with which he opened Woodstock. He declares good-humoredly that the world began with Rock 'N' Roll. He credits it with giving voice to his generation and every generation thereafter. He expands, describing Rock 'N' Roll's power to bond people in each generation. Recalling his own years in Greenwich Village, he notes how "message" music moved out of one genre into all of them. He summarizes the racial divide America institutionalized after its Civil War, confident the society?s work since the '50s has been to learn how to be nice. He explains why he is optimistic about the future of the planet.


Conversation 5

Richie talks about songwriters' role in the world. He remembers discovering Beatniks and Greenwich Village. Honoring the sense of community he lost in Brooklyn and found in The Village, Richie remembers how the '60s generation discovered they'd been lied to. The current Becoming of America is the Becoming of the World, he says. He links his sense of hope and the requirement to do the work to free oneself. Richie talks about his commitment to environmental issues, encouraged people are learning to speak out to save the planet. He describes how unlikely he felt profound social change seemed in 1959 -- just before it happened. He insists his generation was the first to live in a brand new world.


Conversation 6

Songwriters are today's poets and troubadours, Richie believes, in all genres of music. He personalizes how songs have affected him over the years and honors young musicians with whom he often plays. He recalls his youthful nights in Greenwich Village coffee houses, days drawing portraits of people in the street. He gives examples of songs that profoundly affected him,. He cites "Here Comes the Sun" as an example of what makes a classic and describes his deep connection to his audiences.




Special thanks to Judy Collins and her "Wildflowers Festival" tour team, for connecting us -- and audiences across America -- to Janis and Richie. Thanks, also, to Janis' manager, Karen Sternberg.

Related Links:

Both artists have websites where you will find their latest CDs, plus a wealth of information about where they have been, where they are going and how you connect with them:  Richie Havens & Janis Ian.

Two progams with Judy Collins are here and here.

Roger McGuinn was instrumental (pun intended) in bring folk and rock together.

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