Starting early and finishing early means that I usually catch up on Dead Folk on Fridays, BBC Radio 4. Of course, it’s not called Dead Folk, it’s Last Word but I can never remember that but I know what it’s about.
This week’s ended with a piece about Richie Havens. John Lennon said that Havens always sounded like he was playing the same chord but that he made it good and funky. It often seemed awkward too, hand over the fretboard, using his thumb to bridge, standing up to play without a strap; he had his own way, no rules.
Until the programme, I hadn’t realised the 70s disco hit, (Zipping up my boots) Going Back to My Roots, was arranged around his song. He said every place he went, he heard it, and everywhere he heard it, he ran from. He didn’t know how his song could be a turned into a dance hit. You can watch Odyssey perform it on Youtube, and many versions, down the years, of Richie Havens singing it, and appreciate his sentiment. It was like splashing 15 year old Modena Balsamic vinegar over a bag of chips.
Dead Folk ended the show with this version of the song. No trademark spare yet frantic guitar here, but a driving piano (in the car, I imagined how good it would sound paired with a funky organ. I tend to do this sort of thing a lot; is it just me?). I’m too ill-informed to know for sure though it might be Groove Armada; a collaboration was mentioned. Yet it’s the voice and the simple message in the words that makes this song.
Not talking about the roots in the land; talking about the roots in the man. He wants to go back to a better self. Don’t we all feel that?
Thanks to Anne Doremi, by way of a bonus, for uploading this special version with a montage of shots by photojournalist, Stanley Greene. I wasn’t aware of him or his body of work. I do now. I can be ambivalent about photography as art but I do think photojournalism is the pinnacle of its form.