Folk legends Richie Havens, Janis Ian and Tom Paxton at Fairfield University's Quick Center

Folk legends Richie Havens, Janis Ian and Tom Paxton at Fairfield University's Quick Center

A trio of folk legends - Richie Havens, Janis Ian and Tom Paxton - will bring their musical magic to Fairfield University's Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts on Friday, March 10, at 8 p.m. "Politics and Music: Society's Child and Leonard Bernstein," a free pre-concert Art to Heart discussion with Brian Torff, associate professor of music, will take place from 7 to 7:40 p.m. in the Wien Experimental Theatre. Torff's lecture is part of the Quick Center's ongoing Leonard Bernstein Festival.

For more than three decades, Richie Havens has been both entertaining and inspiring audiences around the world. Whether at the Woodstock Music & Arts Fair in 1969, where he sang the unforgettable "Freedom," or the Clinton Presidential Inauguration in 1993, his instantly recognizable voice, fiery playing and message of brotherhood have left an ageless, indelible mark on the music scene.

Born in Brooklyn, Havens was the eldest of nine children. At a young age, he organized neighborhood friends into street corner doo-wop groups and started performing with The McCrea Gospel Singers at 16. Soon he sought the artistic possibilities in Greenwich Village.

"I had first gone there during the beatnik days of the 1950s to perform poetry, then I drew portraits for two years and stayed up all night listening to folk music in the clubs," he said of the time. "It took awhile before I thought of picking up a guitar."

In the years since that fateful day, Havens has created more than 25 albums and continues a grueling tour schedule that's taken him across this country and Ireland in the last six months alone. In addition to Woodstock, Havens has been part of some of the most impressive lineups in live music history, having performed at the 1966 Newport Folk Festival, the 1967 Monterey Jazz Festival and the first Glastonbury Festival of 1970. He was featured in the 1972 original stage production of The Who's "Tommy," and was considered by many the highlight of the Bob Dylan 30 th Anniversary Concert in 1992.

Havens' music remains relevant because of its universality.

"My albums are meant to be a chronological view of the times we've come through, what we've thought about, and what we've done to grow and change," he said. "There's a universal point to which we all respond, and where all songs apply to everyone."

Like Havens, Janis Ian started making her mark early in life. Her poetic wordplay and ethereal voice took the world by storm with "Society's Child," her highly controversial song about teenage interracial love. She recorded it in 1966 at the age of 15.

The tune created a storm of controversy that landed Ian on "The Tonight Show" and in Life, Time and Newsweek. It also hit the top of the charts and Ian's debut album, "Janis Ian," earned her the first of nine Grammy nominations.

Ian reached superstardom in the 1970s, with hit songs like "Jesse," recorded by Roberta Flack, and "At Seventeen," her own angst-ridden tale of teenage alienation. The latter sold more than a million copies and the album, "Between the Lines" won two Grammys.

In the years that followed, Ian's work was featured on movie soundtracks, her own albums, and on television. After a 10-year hiatus from recording, she re-emerged in 1993 with "Breaking Silence" and, in recent years, she's recorded with Dolly Parton, tried her hand at science fiction writing and married her longtime partner, criminal defense attorney Patricia Snyder.

The artist that Ella Fitzgerald once called "the best young singer in America today" remains both realistic and reflective.

"At the end of the day, all you can hope for is to go on," she said. "The older I get, the more I realize that just keeping on keeping on is what life's all about."

It wasn't one song that catapulted Tom Paxton to the top of the folk world. It's a consistent quality that makes listeners take notice.

"Tom's songs have a way of sneaking up on you," fellow folkie Pete Seeger once said. "You find yourself humming them, whistling them, and singing a verse to a friend. Like the songs of Woody Guthrie, they're becoming part of America."

Paxton has been an integral part of the folk music scene since the 1960s, when, like Havens, he found a home in the Greenwich Village scene. A Chicago native, he says he came to New York courtesy of the U.S. Army and his memorable sets were well received at top coffeehouses such as The Gaslight and The Bitter End.

Over his 40-plus-year career, Paxton has recorded with an eclectic group of artists from Willie Nelson to Placido Domingo, created folk standards "The Last Thing on My Mind," "Ramblin" Boy," and "Bottle of Wine," and even branched out to award-winning children's recordings. Nominated for two Grammy Awards, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) and was scheduled to receive a second from the BBC in February.

"I have sung Tom's songs for three decades and will go on doing so," said Judy Collins, "for they are beautiful and timeless, and meant for every age."

Tickets are $40 and $35. For tickets, call the Quick Center box office at (203) 254-4010 or toll free at 1-877-ARTS-396. For more information, visit

Posted On: 02-10-2006 10:02 AM

Volume: 38 Number: 158