As I was writing yesterdays blog entry (#1280), I was reminded of a concert I went to in Bloomington, Indiana back in the early 70’s. It was in Indiana University’s 10th Street Stadium, home of the Little 500 bicycle race and where the popular film, Breaking Away, was filmed. Although my memory is foggy, perhaps the result of my “hippy-like” ways, I fondly remember a performance by Ritchie Havens. I could find no record of the show, making me suspicious that it really ever happened. Ritchie was the opening act for Woodstock in 1969, with a stirring rendition of Freedom. For some reason, I recall his memorable version of Here Comes the Sun on a rainy college Saturday. Did this really happen or was it a hallucination? In my mind, it was!
This alleged event took place nearly 50 years ago and remains a mystery after several Google searches. It had been raining most of the morning and there were doubts if the concert would ever take place. The draw for me was probably not Ritchie Havens but rather some other band on the docket. I wish I could tell you who that was! At any rate, Ritchie took the stage with dark skies above and began to play his acoustic guitar. When he got to “Here comes the Sun,” it miraculously appeared from behind the clouds. Needless to say, the crowd went nuts!
According to Wikipedia, “Here Comes the Sun” has been recorded by many artists, with the first cover versions appearing soon after the release of Abbey Road. In 1970, Booker T. & the M.G.’s included the song, arranged as a jazz piece with a Moog intro, on their Abbey Road tribute album, McLemore Avenue, as did George Benson on his album The Other Side of Abbey Road. A recording was issued as a single in 1970 by English singer Paul Monday, who later became the glam rock star Gary Glitter.
In 1971, Richie Havens’ version of the song peaked at number 16 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US, giving him the highest-charting single of his entire career. Following the singer’s death in 2013, Wook Kim of Time magazine described the track as a “wonderful mid-tempo interpretation” and included it among Havens’ six “essential performances”. Among the other most notable covers, according to music critic Richie Unterberger, Nina Simone recorded “Here Comes the Sun” as the title track to her 1971 covers album.
Somehow I can picture Ritchie Havens singing for sunshine on that overcast afternoon. Regardless of whether or not I can find a record of the concert, I will cherish the moment. I do know for sure that it wasn’t George Harrison, Booker T, or George Benson. Another great artist from that era passed away from virus complications yesterday, John Prine – “humidity built the Snowman, sunshine brought him down.” I was fortunate to see him in concert and hold a ticket stub as proof – I think. He joins Bill Withers and George Harrison on heaven’s stage. “Ain’t no Sunshine” since they’re gone, as we remember their warm lyrical contributions to our lives. RIP -“Rock in Peace.” Perhaps they ordered some much needed sunshine for us? The forecast for the next few weeks looks optimistic. We all need a little positive lift in these times of isolation. Thankfully, “Here Comes the Sun”…again.