Richie Havens


RE: You have a review on site of a book by Richie Havens that is way off base


Dear Lolita Lark,

You currently have a review on the Ralph web site of a book by Richie Havens that is way off base.

The Book is titled They Can't Hide Us Anymore published by Avon in 1999 and the review first appeared in Salon and was extremely negative yet fortunately ignored by most readers of the book.

Yet, the appearance of this review on Ralph moves me to comment: As was explained to me about two months after the book was published, a friend of a photographer called me and said that he knew of an effort to discredit the author (me, not Richie Havens) for reasons that had nothing to do with the content of the book itself. According to this third party, the offending photographer was resentful that I had refused to buy his photographs of Richie and Woodstock and instead decided to use my own photographs privately produced in the book, thus leaving the offending photographer with no sale. The 'friend' of this photographer who knew of my work in other fields said "a hostile review would appear in a popular forum" very soon to help sink this book."

That said --- coincidence or no --- I have written several other books and know that you get plusses and minuses along the way and as a practical matter, no author can allow any one person or group of reviewers denigrate his or her own evaluation of the work. Constructive criticism yes of curse; but absurd, completely off base critiques, no way.

Some facts to consider: The book was aimed at a younger audience, with no curse words, no explicit sex issues or scenes as it revealed the inspirational life of a man who has never sold out to commercialism --- which is precisely the opposite point made by the reviewer that Richie put forth this book "in another attempt to "bolster his image."

It has been almost a decade since the book was co written by me, Steve Davidowitz. Yet, it has always bothered me that someone would either act so unprofessionally, or be so vindictive, or just completely blind as to the book's scope that so much would be missed.

A few examples: The background stories about the Greenwich Village scene in its heyday; the way a young black man in Brooklyn, NY worked his way out to an independent life and used his talents and abundant energies to spread inspirational messages (not through religious dogma) and good works with and among the youth of the world through so many diversified endeavors. Richie left high school for example, so he could go to the nearest public library every day and learn more on his own than his teachers were offering. Richie used his short moment of real fame to build an Aquatic Museum for children on City Island in the Bronx. Richie was invited to appear on the Johnny Carson Show a record 14 times and did not buy a big house with his substantial earnings from a lucrative record deal in the early 1970's; no, he remained in Jersey City, living in the neighborhood he has lived for more than 35 years dealing with the local community issues and the people who live there with him. Richie Havens helped Jimmy Hendrix connect to important people before anyone really ever heard of Hendrix. Fact is, he has introduced and supported musical acts across the world without monetary recompense strictly to help them move forward.

Richie has lifelong friends in all walks of life, has counseled presidents privately and fought the income tax system during the Viet Nam War. He was in South Africa during Apartheid teaching guitar and musicianship to groups of poor people and he addressed the United Nations on behalf of children's educational efforts at the invitation of the Secretary General.

Richie Havens and his book deserved better than he got from the Salon reviewer and better than he is getting now from the republication of that commentary on Ralph. I may or may not have done best justice to this great human being, but working with him on his auto-biography was the best professional experience of my life and it annoys me now to see the incarnation of the Salon review published without contrary comment. At the bottom line, if I were to review the review, there is no way it would pass my muster as a genuine, fair minded reading of this book not when it completely misses the main thrusts and background stories in the book. Frankly I do not know if the warning given to me way back then had any foundation in truth, but even if it did not, the review is way off the mark and I sincerely invite invite you the Editor of Ralph to personally read this book and comment as you will --- positively or negatively. This commentary is long overdue. If you cannot find it on E-Bay, I will personally send you a copy. I appreciate your time.

--- Steve Davidowitz
Coauthor of They Can't Hide Us Anymore
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