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richie1_r2_c2In the summer of 1968, a young Richie Havens told Rolling Stone magazine that the direction for his music was heaven. Until his death at 72 last week, Richie Havens embodied the notion of music as a transcendent medium for connection:

Music is the major form of communication. It’s the commonest vibration, the people’s news broadcast … I think I’m ready to be everybody’s friend, and to do anything for anybody. It’s heavy.

Richie Havens wasn’t supposed to be the first act at Woodstock. He just happened to be in the right place at the right time, having arrived by helicopter. Who could have predicted that half a million people would show up for a rock concert on a field upstate New York, causing chaos on country roads that would delay the performers scheduled to appear before Richie Havens?  Years later, Havens would tell Scott Myers that when he strode onto that stage, he handled the magnitude of the moment by visualizing the 500,000 people in front of him as one giant human body, one person.

On the twentieth anniversary of his iconic moment in the sun, Havens told Rolling Stone:

My fondest memory was realizing that I was seeing something I never thought I’d ever see in my lifetime – an assemblage of such numbers of people who had the same spirit and consciousness. And believe me, you wouldn’t want to be in a place with that many people if they weren’t like-minded!

When he died this past week, I felt like I had lost someone I knew. I never got to see him in concert. Were it not for the cancer disrupting my life the way it did, I would have made sure to catch him when he performed along with Janis Ian in Scottsdale a couple of years ago. It strikes me as ironic that my little brother got to see him perform in Ireland some years ago and even chatted with him after the show. I would have loved to be there, just to be in the presence of someone who knew how to be a part of humanity.  
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I first heard his hauntingly beautiful and smoky voice in the background of a scene in the movie that will forever be my favorite, Coming Home. If Van Morrison’s Tupelo Honey were a voice, it would surely belong to  Richie Havens – soothing, calm, irresistible.

The song was “Follow,” and like every other song Hal Ashby used to make Coming Home the film I loved, it was a mood-maker, a reflection of the sixties; yet, it had the kind of  timeless appeal that sent me straight to a Belfast record shop to buy the Mixed Bag L.P.

Ruminating on Richie Havens and our limitless abilities to connect with people we may never physically encounter, brings me to the 28th writing challenge of this month, in which I am prompted to provide a Must Follow list.  Previously, in “The ‘Human’ Resource: Star Stuff” I reflected on the ways in which a diagnosis of breast cancer led me and others like me to the blogosphere.

In the beginning, I tried to write my way out of cancer, unthinkably, all by myself. I opened a WordPress account and began typing. I didn’t dare hit “publish” at first. I chose instead to save my drafts, as I had once locked up my teenage angst in a secret diary under my bed. Like breast cancer, the blogosphere was foreign and strange, but unlike the insidious pink culture of the former, it offered alternative places of clarity and transparency. At once apart and a part of this new world, I could be alone and connected, followed and follower, reader and writer. I could be in control. Social media has redefined the boundaries of my life in ways I cannot quite fathom. Below is just the beginning of a list of wonderful places where I have countless opportunities to connect via social media with like-minded people I may never meet but with whom, I might just make a change in the world: 

  1. Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer where self-described serial blogger, Marie Ennis O’Connor, helps so many of make sense of the breast cancer experience. Together.   @JBBC is always a safe place to fall.
  2. Brainpickings the brain-child of the brilliant Maria Popova. In her words, “is your cross-disciplinary LEGO treasure chest, full of pieces spanning art, design, science, technology, philosophy, history, politics, psychology, sociology, ecology, anthropology, and more; pieces that enrich your mental pool of resources and empower combinatorial ideas that are stronger, smarter, richer, deeper and more impactful.”
  3. Literary Jukebox one of Maria Popova’s “side projects.” I swear I had this same idea – a daily quote from a favorite book, thematically matched with a song. In keeping with today’s theme, I would combine Richie Haven’s “Follow,” with this from Seamus Heaney’s “The Follower”

    I was a nuisance, tripping, falling,
    Yapping always. But today
    It is my father who keeps stumbling
    Behind me, and will not go away.

  4. Psychology Today specifically the blog posts of Dr. Janice Harper who writes with the kind of insight for which so many of us have been yearning, on the subject of the workplace and the bullying and mobbing that can take hold there. I am looking forward to her upcoming book on the subject.
  5. Rolling Stone Magazine I never thought the time would come when Rolling Stone magazine wouldn’t be delivered to my mailbox. I still have all my old print issues, important because Rolling Stone is where I discovered the musicians and the music without which my life would be awfully dull.
  6. The Womens International Perspective: ” worldwide collective of women writers, The WIP is an opportunity to balance the tremendous under-representation of women journalists and offer a greater diversity of background and opinion than typically found in mainstream publications. The WIP strives to bring together divergent cultures, opinions, and ideas in solution-based dialog.”
  7. Breast Cancer Action @BCAction – faithfully and unflinchingly this organization “carries the voices of people affected by breast cancer to inspire and compel the changes necessary to end the breast cancer epidemic.” 
  8. On Twitter I can access the New York Times Health and Wellness blog @nytimeswell where Tara Parker Pope sifts through medical research to help readers “live well every day.” I have read stories there that have stopped me in my tracks.
  9. #BCSM Chat “The intersection of breast cancer and all things social media. Join us on Monday nights 9 pm ET. Chat moderated by @jodyms@stales @DrAttai
  10. Women’s Media Center the goal of which is to make “ women visible and powerful in the media.  The influence of the media is the most powerful economic and cultural force today. By deciding who gets to talk, what shapes the debate, who writes, and what is important enough to report, the media shapes our understanding of who we are and what we can be. The Women’s Media Center works to create a level playing field for women and girls in media through our monitoring, training, original content, and activism.”

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