RICHIE HAVENS, FOLK SINGER WHO RIVETED WOODSTOCK
The singer and guitarist Richie Havens opening the Woodstock Festival on Aug. 15, 1969.
Published: April 22, 2013
- Richie Havens, who marshaled a craggy voice, a percussive guitar and a soulful sensibility to play his way into musical immortality at Woodstock in 1969, improvising the song “Freedom” on the fly, died on Monday at his home in Jersey City. He was 72.
The cause was a heart attack, his agent, Tim Drake, said.
Mr. Havens embodied the spirit of the ’60s — espousing peace and love, hanging out in Greenwich Village and playing gigs from the Isle of Wight to the Fillmore (both East and West) to Carnegie Hall. He surfaced only in the mid-1960s, but before the end of the decade many rock musicians were citing him as an influence. His rendition of “Handsome Johnny” became an anti-Vietnam War anthem.
He moved beyond his ’60s triumphs to record more than two dozen albums, act in movies, champion environmental education and perform in 1993 at the first inauguration of President Bill Clinton. In 2003, the National Music Council gave him its American Eagle Award for his place in the nation’s musical heritage. Kidney surgery forced him to stop touring last year.
For the baby-boomer generation, he will live forever on the stage of the Woodstock festival, which he had the honor to open because the folk-rock band Sweetwater, the scheduled opening act, was stuck in traffic. Mr. Havens and his guitarist and drummer arrived by helicopter. They had been scheduled to go on fifth.
Mr. Havens started with “Minstrel From Gault” a few minutes after 5 p.m. on Aug. 15, 1969. He was originally supposed to play four songs, but other performers were late, so he played on. He later said he thought he had played for two hours and 45 minutes, but two bands followed him before sunset, around 8 p.m., so that was impossible.
But Mr. Havens played 10 songs, including Beatles songs. His impassioned improvisation was pitch perfect for the generation watching him, most of whom saw it later in a documentary on the festival. His clarion encore “Freedom” — made up on the spot and interspersed with the spiritual “Motherless Child” — sounded a powerful if wistful note.
“ ‘Freedom’ came from a totally spontaneous place,” Mr. Havens said.
Richard Pierce Havens was born on Jan. 21, 1941, in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, where he grew up. He was the eldest of nine children. His father made Formica tables for a living and played piano with various bands. His mother worked for a bookbindery.
He began singing with street-corner doo-wop groups when he was about 12. At 14 he joined the McCrea Gospel Singers. He was recruited by a street gang, and he dropped out of high school. He spent the rest of his life educating himself, and was proud of the results.
In his late teens Mr. Havens migrated to Greenwich Village, where he wandered the clubs working as a portrait artist. After a few years he discovered folk music, and he was soon playing several engagements a night at clubs like Why Not? and the Fat Black Pussycat.
His hands were very large, which made it difficult to play the guitar. He developed an unorthodox tuning so he could play chord patterns not possible with conventional tunings. The style was picked up by other folk and blues singers.
“A person looking at him might think he was just flailing about,” the guitarist Barry Oliver said in the magazine Guitar Player. “But the way he flailed about was so musical, and it went perfectly with what he was portraying. He’s a good example of not having to have to be a technically perfect guitarist in order to come across.”
Mr. Havens signed with the influential manager Albert Grossman and got a record deal with the Verve Forecast label. Verve released “Mixed Bag” in 1967, which featured “Handsome Johnny,” which he wrote with the actor Louis Gossett Jr.; “Follow,” which became one of his signature songs; and a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Just Like a Woman.”
In 1971, he released the only single that would put him in the Top 20, a soulful rendition of George Harrison’s “Here Comes the Sun.” His music had a new burst of popularity in the 1980s, and he found success as a jingle writer and performer for Amtrak, Maxwell House Coffee and the cotton industry (“The fabric of our lives”). He acted in a few movies, including “Hearts of Fire” (1987), which starred Bob Dylan.
Mr. Havens devoted considerable energy to educating young people on ecological issues. In the mid-1970s he founded the Northwind Undersea Institute, an oceanographic children’s museum on City Island in the Bronx. He later created the Natural Guard, an environmental organization for children, to use hands-on methods to teach about the environment.
This seriousness of purpose showed in many areas of his life. “I’m not in show business,” he said. “I’m in the communications business.”
Carrie Lombardi, Mr. Havens’s publicist, said his family wanted to keep information about survivors private, but she did say that they include three daughters, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He was married many years ago.
Mr. Havens played many songs written by Mr. Dylan, and he spent three days learning his epic “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.” A man who heard him practicing it stopped him on the stairs as he headed for the dressing room of a nightclub, and told him it was the best he’d ever heard the song sung.
“That’s how I first met Bob Dylan,” Mr. Havens said.
Daniel E. Slotnik contributed reporting.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: April 24, 2013
An earlier version of this obituary, using information from Mr. Havens’s publicist, misstated the number of daughters who survive him. Only three of his daughters are living, not all four. (The obituary also included information from the publicist that Mr. Havens was survived by “many grandchildren.” The publicist has since said that he had five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.)
ALLAN ARBUS, PSYCHIATRIST WITH ZINGERS ON ‘M*A*S*H.’
By DANIEL E. SLOTNIK
Published: April 23, 2013
Allan Arbus in a scene from “M*A*S*H.”
Amy Arbus, his daughter, confirmed his death.
Mr. Arbus appeared in films like “Coffy” and “Crossroads” and was a TV regular during the 1970s and ’80s, appearing on “Taxi,” “Starsky & Hutch,” “Matlock” and other shows.
But his best-known role was Major Freedman, the liberal psychiatrist who appeared in a dozen episodes of “M*A*S*H.” He treated wounds of the psyche much as Capt. Hawkeye Pierce treated surgery patients: with a never-ending string of zingers.
Alan Alda, who played Hawkeye, recalled Mr. Arbus as a very believable therapist.
“I was so convinced that he was a psychiatrist I used to sit and talk with him between scenes,” Mr. Alda said in an interview with the Archive of American Television. “After a couple months of that I noticed he was giving me these strange looks, like ‘How would I know the answer to that?’ ”
Allan Franklin Arbus was born in New York City on Feb. 15, 1918. He attended DeWitt Clinton High School and entered City College at 15. He left college a year and a half later for a job at Russek’s Department Store, where he met Diane Nemerov, the daughter of the store’s owners.
They married in 1941 and became passionate about photography. They shot fashion photographs for Russek’s before Mr. Arbus left to serve as a photographer in the Army Signal Corps in Burma during World War II. When he was discharged in 1946 the Arbuses established a studio on West 54th Street for fashion photography and soon won a contract from Condé Nast to supply photos for magazines like Glamour and Vogue.
In 1956, Ms. Arbus dissolved their business partnership to work full time on her haunting shots of marginalized people. Mr. Arbus continued to work in fashion photography but also took up acting.
The Arbuses separated in 1959 and divorced in 1969, when Mr. Arbus moved to Los Angeles. Ms. Arbus committed suicide in 1971. In 1976, Mr. Arbus married Mariclare Costello. She survives him, as do his two daughters from his first marriage, Amy and Doon; and a daughter from his second marriage, Arin Arbus.
Mr. Arbus’s last television role was on the HBO series “Curb Your Enthusiasm” in 2000.
CORDELL MOSSON, FUNK GUITARIST WITH PARLIAMENT-FUNKADELIC
By DANIEL E. SLOTNIK
Published: April 26, 2013
- Cordell Mosson, a guitarist whose bass line drove the flamboyant band Parliament-Funkadelic for four decades, died on April 18 in New Brunswick, N.J. He was 60.
The cause was liver failure, his companion, Donna Snead, said Thursday.
Mr. Mosson — Boogie to his band mates and audiences — had been a fixture of the group since the early 1970s, playing bass, drums and eventually rhythm guitar and, like the rest of George Clinton’s sprawling collective, appearing onstage in elaborate, intergalactic outfits.
He collaborated on seminal P-Funk albums like “Up for the Down Stroke” and “Funkentelechy and the Placebo Syndrome” and replaced Bootsy Collins onstage as the bassist when Mr. Collins left to focus on his solo career. (Mr. Collins still recorded with the group.) Mr. Mosson toured with the group until 2011.
In an interview on Thursday, Mr. Clinton, the band’s leader and frontman, recalled Mr. Mosson as multifaceted, able to play “all the psychedelic stuff and the Motown and the James Brown.”
“Boogie’s been playing with us since he was 13 or 14,” Mr. Clinton said, adding, “He was the heartbeat for a long time.”
Mr. Mosson appeared with the band in the 1994 film comedy “PCU,” starring Jeremy Piven, Jon Favreau and David Spade. He and 15 other members of the band were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.
Cardell Mosson Jr. was born on Oct. 16, 1952, in New Brunswick. In addition to Ms. Snead, he is survived by four daughters, LaPortia Nicholson, Lisa Brown, Latonya Snead and Ramona Perry; four sons, Chauncey Mosson, David Shropshire, Cordell Boogie Mosson and Remby Perry; a brother, the Rev. Larry Mosson; and eight grandchildren.
GEORGE JONES, COUNTRY MUSIC STAR
George Jones | 1931-2013
His Life Was a Country Song
George Jones at Tramps in Manhattan in 1992. He was also part of the first country concert at Madison Square Garden, in 1964. More Photos »
By JON PARELES
Published: April 26, 2013
- George Jones, the definitive country singer of the last half-century, whose songs about heartbreak and hard drinking echoed his own turbulent life, died on Friday in Nashville. He was 81.
A former pop music critic recalls an encounter on a tour bus in 1977 with the country music star.
Mr. Jones appeared on the country charts for decades. More Photos »
Tammy Wynette and Mr. Jones in a photograph from the 1970s. They were married in 1969 and divorced in 1975. More Photos »
George Jones in 1981. More Photos »
His publicists, Webster & Associates, said he died at a hospital after being admitted there on April 18 with fever and irregular blood pressure.
Mr. Jones’s singing was universally respected and just as widely imitated. With a baritone voice that was as elastic as a steel-guitar string, he found vulnerability and doubt behind the cheerful drive of honky-tonk and brought suspense to every syllable, merging bluesy slides with the tight, quivering ornaments of Appalachian singing.
In his most memorable songs, all the pleasures of a down-home Saturday night couldn’t free him from private pain. His up-tempo songs had undercurrents of solitude, and the ballads that became his specialty were suffused with stoic desolation. “When you’re onstage or recording, you put yourself in those stories,” he once said.
Fans heard in those songs the strains of a life in which success and excess battled for decades. Mr. Jones — nicknamed Possum for his close-set eyes and pointed nose and later No-Show Jones for the concerts he missed during drinking and drug binges — bought, sold and traded dozens of houses and hundreds of cars; he earned millions of dollars and lost much of it to drug use, mismanagement and divorce settlements. Through it all, he kept touring and recording, singing mournful songs that continued to ring true.
Mr. Jones was a presence on the country charts from the 1950s into the 21st century, and as early as the 1960s he was praised by listeners and fellow musicians as the greatest living country singer. He was never a crossover act; while country fans revered him, pop and rock radio stations ignored him. But by the 1980s, Mr. Jones had come to stand for country tradition. Country singers through the decades, fromGarth Brooksand Randy Travis to Toby Keith andTim McGraw, learned licks from Mr. Jones, who never bothered to wear a cowboy hat.
“Not everybody needs to sound like a George Jones record,” Alan Jackson, the country singer and songwriter, once told an interviewer. “But that’s what I’ve always done, and I’m going to keep it that way — or try to.”
George Glenn Jones was born with a broken arm in Saratoga, Tex., an oil-field town, on Sept. 12, 1931, to Clare and George Washington Jones. His father, a truck driver and pipe fitter, bought George his first guitar when he was 9, and with help from a Sunday school teacher he taught himself to play melodies and chords. As a teenager he sang on the streets, in Pentecostal revival services and in the honky-tonks in the Gulf Coast port of Beaumont. Bus drivers let him ride free if he sang. Soon he was appearing on radio shows, forging a style modeled on Lefty Frizzell, Roy Acuff andHank Williams.
Mr. Jones married Dorothy Bonvillion when he was 17, but divorced her before the birth of their daughter. He served in the Marines from 1950 to 1953, then signed to Starday Records, whose co-owner Pappy Daily became Mr. Jones’s producer and manager. Mr. Jones’s first single, “No Money in This Deal,” was released in 1954, the year he married his second wife, Shirley Corley. They had two sons before they divorced in 1968.
“Why Baby Why,” released in 1955, became Mr. Jones’s first hit. During the 1950s he wrote or collaborated on many of his songs, including hits like”Just One More,””What Am I Worth” and “Color of the Blues,” though he later gave up songwriting. In the mid-’50s he had a brief fling with rockabilly, recording as Thumper Jones and as Hank Smith. But under his own name he was a country hit maker. He began singing at the Grand Ole Opry in 1956.
He had already become a drinker.”White Lightning,”a No. 1 country hit in 1959, required 83 takes because Mr. Jones was drinking through the session. On the road, playing one-night stands, he tore up hotel rooms and got into brawls. He also began missing shows because he was too drunk to perform.
But onstage and on recordings, his career was advancing. In 1962 he recorded one of his signature songs, “She Thinks I Still Care,” which was nominated for a Grammy Award. Another of his most lasting hits, “The Race Is On,” appeared in 1964. He was part of the first country concert at Madison Square Garden, a four-show, 10-act package in 1964 that also included Ernest Tubb, Bill Monroe and Buck Owens. Each act was allotted two songs per show, but on the opening night Mr. Jones played five before he was carried offstage.
In 1966, Mr. Jones tried to start a country theme park in Vidor, the East Texas suburb where he lived. Called the George Jones Rhythm Ranch, it was the first of many shaky business ventures. Mr. Jones gave only one performance. After singing, he disappeared for a month, rambling across Texas. His drinking had gotten worse. At one point his wife hid the keys to all his cars, so he drove his lawn mower into Beaumont to a liquor store — an incident he would later commemorate in a song and in music videos. They were divorced not long afterward.
Mr. Jones had his next No. 1 country single in 1967 with “Walk Through This World With Me.” He moved to Nashville and opened a nightclub there, Possum Holler, which lasted a few months.
He had met a rising country singer, Tammy Wynette, in 1966, and they fell in love while on tour. She was married at the time to Don Chapel, a songwriter whose material had appeared on both of their albums. One night in 1968, Mr. Jones recalled, Ms. Wynette and Mr. Chapel were arguing in their dining room when Mr. Jones arrived; he upended the dining room table and told Ms. Wynette he loved her. She took her three children and left with Mr. Jones.
They were married in 1969 and settled in Lakeland, Fla. There, on the land around his plantation-style mansion, Mr. Jones built another country-themed park, the Old Plantation Music Park.
Mr. Jones severed his connection with Mr. Daily and later maintained that he had not received proper royalties. In 1971 he signed a contract with Epic Records, which was also Ms. Wynette’s label, and the couple began recording duets produced by Billy Sherrill, whose elaborate arrangements helped reshape the sound of Nashville. Three of those duets — “We’re Gonna Hold On,” “Golden Ring” and “Near You” — were No. 1 country hits, an accomplishment made more poignant by the singers’ widely reported marital friction.
“Mr. and Mrs. Country Music” was painted on their tour bus. But the marriage was falling apart, unable to withstand bitter quarrels and Mr. Jones’s drinking and amphetamine use. After one fight, he was put in a straitjacket and hospitalized for 10 days. The Lakeland music park was shut down.
The couple divorced in 1975; the next year Mr. Jones released two albums, titled”The Battle”and “Alone Again.” But duets by Mr. Jones and Ms. Wynette continued to be released until 1980, the year they rejoined to make a new album,”Together Again,”which included the hit “Two Story House.” They would reunite to tour and record again in the mid-1990s. Mr. Jones grew increasingly erratic after the divorce, drinking heavily and losing weight. His singles slipped lower on the charts. His management bounced his band members’ paychecks. At times he would sing in a Donald Duck voice onstage. And he began using cocaine and brandishing a gun. In 1977 he fired at a friend’s car and was charged with attempted murder, but the charges were dropped.
His nickname No-Show Jones gained national circulation as he missed more engagements than he kept. When he was scheduled to play a 1977 showcase at the Bottom Line in New York, he disappeared for three weeks instead. In 1979, he missed 54 concert dates. (Later, the license plates on his cars ran from “NOSHOW1” to “NOSHOW7.”)
But as his troubles increased, so did his fame and his album sales. “I was country music’s national drunk and drug addict,” Mr. Jones wrote in his autobiography, “I Lived to Tell It All,” published in 1996.
He had music industry fans outside country circles.James Taylorwrote “Bartender’s Blues” for him, and sang it with him as a duet. In 1979, on the album “My Very Special Guests,” Mr. Jones sang duets withWillie Nelson,Linda Ronstadt,Elvis CostelloandEmmylou Harris. But he missed many of the recording sessions, and had to add his vocal tracks later.
Running From Debts
By then Mr. Jones had moved to Florence, Ala., in part to get away from arrest warrants for nonpayment of child support to Ms. Wynette and other debts in Tennessee. In Florence, he had a girlfriend, Linda Welborn, from 1975 to 1981. When they broke up, she sued and won a divorce settlement under Alabama’s common-law marriage statutes.
In 1979 Mr. Jones declared bankruptcy. His manager was arrested and charged with selling cocaine. That December, Mr. Jones was committed for 30 days to a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center. After his release, he went back to cocaine and whiskey.
Yet he still had hits. “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” a song about a man whose love ends only when his life does, was released in April 1980 and reached No. 1 on the country charts, beginning Mr. Jones’s resurgence. The Country Music Association named it the song of the year, the award going to its songwriters, Bobby Braddock and Curly Putman, and the recording won the Grammy for best male country performance.
With a renewed contract from Epic Records, Mr. Jones became a hit maker again, with No. 1 songs including “Still Doin’ Time” in 1981 and “I Always Get Lucky With You” in 1983. He made an album with Johnny Paycheck, a former member of his band, in 1980 and one withMerle Haggard in 1982; he recorded a single, “We Didn’t See a Thing,” withRay Charles in 1983. And in 1984 he released “Ladies’ Choice,” an album of duets withLoretta Lynn, Brenda Lee, Emmylou Harris and other female singers.
In 1983 he married Nancy Sepulvado, who straightened out his business affairs and then Mr. Jones himself. He gave up cocaine and whiskey. The couple moved to East Texas, near Mr. Jones’s birthplace, and opened the Jones Country Music Park, which they operated for six years. In 1988 he changed labels again, to MCA, and soon moved to Franklin, Tenn.
By then, younger, more telegenic singers had come along with vocal styles learned largely from Mr. Jones and Merle Haggard. Now treated as an elder statesman, Mr. Jones sang duets with some of his musical heirs, including Randy Travis and Alan Jackson. Garth Brooks, Vince Gill, Travis Tritt, Clint Black, Patty Loveless and other country stars joined Mr. Jones on the single “I Don’t Need Your Rocking Chair” in 1992. That same year he was named to the Country Music Hall of Fame.
A Return With Wynette
His 1992 album, “Walls Can Fall,” sold a half-million copies. He made a duet album, “The Bradley Barn Sessions,” with country singers like Trisha Yearwood and rock musicians likeMark Knopflerand Keith Richards. In 1994, he had triple bypass surgery.
Mr. Jones rejoined Ms. Wynette to record an album, “One,”and to tour in 1994 and 1995, and in 1996 he released an album to coincide with the publication of his autobiography, giving it the same title, “I Lived to Tell It All.” He changed labels again, to Asylum Records, in 1998, the year Ms. Wynette died in her sleep at age 55.
By this time, Mr. Jones was performing more than 150 nights a year. Then, on March 6, 1999, he was critically injured when his car hit the side of a bridge while he was changing a cassette tape. A half-empty bottle of vodka was found in the car; Mr. Jones was sentenced to undergo treatment.
“Choices,”a song he released in 1999, won him a Grammy for best male country vocal. In it, he sang, “By an early age I found I liked drinkin’/Oh, and I never turned it down.”
Mr. Jones, who lived in Franklin, Tenn., continued to tour and record into the 21st century. He was a guest vocalist on Top 30 country hits by Garth Brooks and Shooter Jennings, and he released both country and gospel albums in the early 2000s. In 2006 he and Mr. Haggard joined forces again for “Kicking Out the Footlights Again: Jones Sings Haggard, Haggard Sings Jones.” In 2008 he was honored by the Kennedy Center, and in 2012 he received a lifetime achievement Grammy Award.
In addition to his wife, survivors include his sister, Helen Scroggins, and his children and grandchildren.
In his last years, Mr. Jones found himself upholding a traditional sound that had largely disappeared from commercial country radio. “They just shut us off all together at one time,” he said in a 2012 conversation with the photographer Alan Mercer. “It’s not the right way to do these things. You just don’t take something as big as what we had and throw it away without regrets.
“They don’t care about you as a person,” he added. “They don’t even know who I am in downtown Nashville.”
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: April 26, 2013
An earlier version of this article misspelled the surname of Mr. Jones’s wife. Her name is Nancy Sepulvedo, not Sepulveda. It also, in one instance, referred to Mr. Jones as Mr. George.
SHAKUNTALA DEVI, ‘HUMAN COMPUTER’ WHO BESTED THE MACHINES
By HARESH PANDYA
Published: April 23, 2013
- Shakuntala Devi, an Indian mathematical wizard known as “the human computer” for her ability to make incredibly swift calculations, died on Sunday in Bangalore, India. She was 83.
The cause was respiratory and cardiac problems, said D. C. Shivadev, a trustee of the Shakuntala Devi Educational Foundation Public Trust.
Ms. Devi demonstrated her mathematical gifts around the world, at colleges, in theaters and on radio and television. In 1977, at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, she extracted the 23rd root of a 201-digit number in 50 seconds, beating a Univac computer, which took 62 seconds.
In 1980, she correctly multiplied two 13-digit numbers in only 28 seconds at the Imperial College in London. The feat, which earned her a place in the 1982 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records, was even more remarkable because it included the time to recite the 26-digit solution.
(The numbers, selected at random by a computer, were 7,686,369,774,870 and 2,465,099,745,779. The answer was 18,947,668,177,995,426,462,773,730.)
Shakuntala Devi was born in Bangalore on Nov. 4, 1929. Her father was a trapeze artist and lion tamer in a circus. Survivors include a daughter and two grandchildren.
She was about 3 and playing cards with her father when he discovered that she was a mathematical prodigy with an uncanny ability to memorize numbers. By the time she was 5, she had become an expert at solving math problems.
Ms. Devi won fame demonstrating her math skills at the circus, and later in road shows arranged by her father.
“I had become the sole breadwinner of my family, and the responsibility was a huge one for a young child,” she once said. “At the age of 6, I gave my first major show at the University of Mysore, and this was the beginning of my marathon of public performances.”
She toured Europe in 1950. When she appeared on the BBC, her answer to a difficult calculation was different from the interviewer’s. It turned out that she was right. Similarly, at the University of Rome, one of her answers to a problem was found to be wrong, until the experts re-examined their own calculations.
When Ms. Devi performed in New York in 1976, an article in The New York Times marveled at her abilities: “She could give you the cube root of 188,132,517 — or almost any other number — in the time it took to ask the question. If you gave her any date in the last century, she would tell you what day of the week it fell on.”
In a 1990 journal article about Ms. Devi, Arthur R. Jensen, a researcher on human intelligence at the University of California, Berkeley, noted that unlike the Dustin Hoffman character in the movie “Rain Man,” an autistic savant who was also a mathematical prodigy, “Devi comes across as alert, extroverted, affable and articulate.”
He posited that for Ms. Devi, “the manipulation of numbers is apparently like a native language, whereas for most of us arithmetic calculation is at best like the foreign language we learned in school.” But he added that she built on her inherent skills through intense practice as a child.
Ms. Devi was also a successful astrologer, cookbook author and novelist.