Bethel Woods to honor life of Woodstock opener Richie Havens on Aug. 18



Come the middle of August, the thoughts of a generation that strung together the words peace, love and music forever turn toward a grassy field in upstate New York.

Woodstock. In Bethel, N.Y. Where dozens of bands and hundreds of thousands of young people gathered at Max Yasgur’s farm. The festival that became legend through news, vinyl, film and, perhaps most importantly, oral history, kicked off on Aug. 15, 1969.

People who were there and people who wish they were there have an event to help commemorate the 44th anniversary of Woodstock this summer. On Sunday, Aug. 18, the “Day of Song and Remembrance Honoring Richie Havens” will unfold at Bethel Woods, where a museum and performance spaces sit on hallowed

There’s a strong Syracuse connection for music and culture lovers who drive the New York State Thruway south that day.

Frank Malfitano is producing the program. Malfitano, the founding executive director of the M&T Syracuse Jazz Fest, presented Havens several times. The guitarist, singer and American legend died at age 72 on April 22.

The original Woodstock fest poster is part of a generation's cultural legend.

The original Woodstock fest poster is part of a generation’s cultural legend.

Havens forever was linked to his Woodstock-opening performance, especially his emotional rendition of “Freedom.”

I was fortunate enough to witness Havens performing “Freedom” at the Syracuse fest, and the moment gave me chills.

To close the special day, Havens’ ashes and flower petals will be scattered across the old Yasgur fields from the air, following his wishes.

The museum at Bethel Woods opens at 10 a.m.

Speakers and music begin at 3 p.m. in the Bethel Woods Market Shed. Tickets for seats inside the shed are gone, but the ceremony will also be piped outside to the concert field, and there’s no admission charge. Everybody is welcome. There will be a number of events on the field throughout the day, including a drum circle at 12:30 p.m. hosted by Juma Sultan, the percussionist for Jimi Hendrix, on the Stone Terrace Stage.

Malfitano says he’s honored and privileged to produce the ceremonies. He was approached by Havens’ longtime agent, and quickly accepted the offer.

Speakers will include Havens’ friends and fellow and activists, actors Danny Glover and Louis Gossett Jr., and original Woodstock founders and organizers Michael Lang and Joel Rosenman.

Performers will include Jose Feliciano; John Hammond; John Sebastian; Guy Davis; Steve Gorn with Sanjoy Bandopadhyay and Samir Chatterjee; Stephanie Winters and Walter Parks; Dayne Kurtz; and more. The host will be Dennis Elsas of Sirius-XM radio.

Havens said often that never a day in his life went by without somebody asking him about Woodstock. At the event’s 40th anniversary celebration, Havens said: “Woodstock was both a peaceful protest and a global celebration. We came together communally to be heard and to be acknowledged.”

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