Richie Havens had a unique ability to get to the soul of a song, which Quentin Tarantino had the good sense to understand in "Django Unchained."
The story of Richie Havens that began at Woodstock -- where he turned a request to kill time until other bands arrived into one of the festival's seminal performances -- ended Monday morning when the singer-guitarist died of a heart attack at age 72.
His death was announced by his management company, the Roots Agency, which had represented Havens for many years. The announcment said Havens "was gifted with one of the most recognizable voices in popular music. His fiery, poignant, soulful singing style has remained unique and ageless since his historic appearance at Woodstock in 1969. For four decades, Havens used his music to convey passionate messages of brotherhood and personal freedom."
Those messages are certainly in play in "Django Unchained," Tarantino's bloody homage to spaghetti westerns. One of the hit film's pivotal scenes, in which the hero, played by Jamie Foxx, surrenders his guns in exchange for the life of a woman held at gunpoint, reaches its climax as Havens' "Freedom" is heard.
Tarantino's unerring ear for music has always given his films an essential emotional resonance, both light and dark, and his choice of Havens' beautifully rendered cri de coeur from the Woodstock stage was genius. Here it is, in its original form.
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