Monday, April 22, 2013

Richie Havens and the Perils of Looking On the Outside

Just read that Richie Havens, the singer, has died. What took me aback is that he was only 72. To me, Havens had looked ancient for decades.

But some people look old even at young ages...and vice versa.

These thoughts on Havens made me think about Leon Redbone. When he first came to prominence in the mid-1970s, I remember that he (or his publicists) cultivated a whole mystique about his age, the implication being that he was ancient and had been plying his career as a ragtime troubadour for...well, for forever.

And he looked ancient. Even Bob Dylan, that master cultivator of mystique, mused in a Rolling Stone interview I read back in the day about how old Redbone was, certain, at least for the benefit of RS readers, that Redbone was advanced in years.

But I just checked: Redbone is just 63 years old.

For the record, in the picture taken of Redbone in 2010 which appears in the Wikipedia entry about him, he looks younger to me than he did in 1975. Well, Dylan did once write, "I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now." 

Of course, it's notoriously stupid to judge people by outward appearances. In a passage I mentioned in yesterday's sermon, the prophet Samuel, in Bethlehem to anoint one of the sons of Jesse as Israel's first king, is set to anoint Eliab because he evidently looked like a king from central casting. "But the Lord said to Samuel, 'Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature...for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart" (1 Samuel 16:6-7).

Anyway, may God comfort those who mourn Richie Havens' passing and may we all focus on what's on the inside--of ourselves and of others--more than we do on the outside, even when publicists call our attention to the shaky evidence of what we see there.

1 comment:

Spencer Troxell said...

I expect to pass Leon Redbone in age one of these days too. He--or his publicist--did a great job. Maybe he's the wandering Jew? I like that idea: all roads, if you live long enough, lead to ragtime.