Richie Havens

I loved (love) Richie Havens’ music even before his famous WOODSTOCK appearance.  The sixties was the best time in American music because music seemed to have a purpose for the first time.  Dylan, Country Joe, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and others all had a response to the various social upheavals, the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights movement, but none better than Richie Havens.  I was working on a documentary for the LBJ administration that had spilled over to Nixon’s, not a good thing.  It was about the problems of migrant workers and their exploitation, a problem that hasn’t been solved to this day.  As I edited the MOS (silent) sequences, I listened to Havens a great deal, then it came to me that his music was appropriate to establish a mood for the piece that would elevate it, especially for his cover of Dylan’s MAGGIE’S FARM.  At the time, I had a partner, Rift Fournier, that was one of the last polio victims in America and was wheelchair bound, a plight that he used to his advantage.  We went to the TROUBADOR to see Havens and ask him about using the music. We spoke with him at a break and after hearing the idea we shook hands and that was that.  Dylan also consented (by phone).  That kind of grace doesn’t exist any more.

MOS is a term that says the film has no soundtrack.  There a myth that it means Mit Out Sound, credited to Lubitsch but I was a sound engineer early on and it meant (then) Mask Optical Sound (although other definitions abound).  Before the advent of a tape track, sound was optical, variable area or variable density.  There was a danger of an overexposed soundtrack spilling into the picture area of a print, so the sound was masked when it wasn’t needed, at least it was then.  In the early fifties magnetic sound began to appear in films but optical sound still remained and was improved.  With the new digital technology, all those systems are obsolete.