Tag Archives: Woodstock setlists

Sweetwater Woodstock

Sweetwater Woodstock

August 15, 1969

Intro by John Morris

Richie Havens had jumped started Woodstock and the second performance  there, following  Sri Swami Satchidanandas convocation, was the band Sweetwater who’d been stuck in traffic.

The band’s poor luck continued when in 1970 none of their performance was included neither on the 3-record movie soundtrack nor the 3-hour movie.

Their set began around 6:30 PM and were on stage about an hour. An interesting piece of trivia about the band was it had no guitarist.

They had released their first album in 1968.

Sweetwater's debut album

The band members were:

Nanci Nevins: guitar, vocals
Albert Moore: flute, vocals
August Burns: cello
Alex Del Zoppo: keyboards
Fred Herrera: bass
Elpidio Cobain: conga drums
Alan Malarowitz: drums

And their set consisted of:

  • Motherless Child
  • Look Out
  • For Pete’s Sake
  • Day Song
  • What’s Wrong
  • My Crystal Spider
  • Two Worlds
  • Why Oh Why
  • Let the Sunshine In
  • Oh Happy Day
Sweetwater Woodstock

Motherless Child

Another bit of Woodstock Sweetwater trivia would be that the last song Richie Havens had sung was Motherless Child. What did Sweetwater open with? Motherless Child. The traditional song was one that many bands covered. Their version was less emotional, but longer and since it was a larger band playing, this version was more intricate, more percussive as was the band’s style.

Sweetwater Woodstock

Look Out

Nanci Nevins wrote Look Out. It is interesting to hear a rock band without a rock guitar, or any guitar for that matter. Flute, keyboards, lots of percussion.

Look out, somebody’s comin’
He’s got the key to your door
He ain’t who you thought of
He’s not what you’re lookin’ for

Sweetwater Woodstock

Alex Del Zoppo

Before the next song, keyboardist Alex Del Zoppo explains the reason for their being late part of which was that the “man” had to stop them and bust them.

Sweetwater Woodstock

For Pete’s Sake

Nanci Nevins describes For Pete’s Sake  as a bosso nova blues. It is an instrumental and was their third single released on June 18, 1969.

Sweetwater Woodstock

 Day Song

The band described Day Song: “We’re doing a thing now, it’s sorta’ a folkie thing, it was written by Nanci and it’s about a captain and so forth sailing his ship and it includes Nanci and her acoustic guitar and the cello…”

Captain sailed the ship today
Old Love, she just sighed
Met his mother on the way
They stopped and cried
Cat on the sill
See the sad rain fall
Do as you will
I love you more than all
Old Love sailed the ship today
Captain he just sighed
Met her father on the way
They stopped and cried
Cat on the sill
See the sad rain fall
Do as you will
I love you more than all
Sing the song of sailin’ away
Sing it from your heart
Sing the song of sailin’ away
Even though we part

Sweetwater Woodstock

What’s Wrong

One of the nicest things about Rhino Record’s Woodstock release is the inclusion of stage announcements and stage patter. The collection gives a much fuller “there” experience to the listener.

Before beginning What’s Wrong, Nanci Nevins mentions that Alex had written the song and that he wrote a lot of their material. She also goes to mention Albert’s t-shirt has the band’s name on it. I suppose she felt she needed to remind the audience of the band’s name. Keep in mind that Sweetwater is technically the festival’s opening act and opening acts are typically not the best known of the performers at a show or festival.

Also heard is the sound of a helicopter in the background. it is no Woodstock Haze that that sound was often part of the whole experience.

Specifically topical protest songs were not the norm at Woodstock. That the event was a protest rally is often thought but hardly supported. Having said that, What’s Wrong heads in that direction:

What’s wrong in our schools?
Politicians are blowing their cools
Over they who refuse to abide by the rules
Though they should be separate dealings

What’s wrong at the zoo?
The animals sense all our fears coming through
Our facade yet there’s not a thing that they can do
It’s hurting their poor, helpless feelings
What’s wrong?

The song is nearly 15 minutes long and gave the band a chance to display its chops.

Sweetwater Woodstock

My Chrystal Spider

The Psychedelic Sight site ranks My Crystal Spider at #47 on the top psychedelic songs.

The crystal spider crawled into Alex Del Zoppo’s brain in a waking dream. A “fantasy experience” that yielded a surrealistic web of sound for his band, Sweetwater.

While “My Crystal Spider” ranks as the most psychedelic of Sweetwater’s songs, the songwriter says his creepy-crawly creation wasn’t necessarily the product of an altered state:

“Psychedelic substances may have helped to bring this into focus, but it is not about that,” keyboardist Del Zoppo says today.

“It’s about having a runaway pet spider in an unusually whimsical environment.”

Have you seen my crystal spider
He has eyes of mercury
He has left his web of paisley
Be aware, if you care
Would you please
Send him back to me

Have you seen my crystal spider
He has eyes of mercury
He has left his web of paisley
Be aware, if you care
Would you please

Sweetwater Woodstock

Two Worlds

The band goes right into the next song, Two Worlds. It was one of the five songs in the set that had appeared on their first album.

I’ve got two worlds
But I don’t belong
I’ve got two ways
Neither’s very strong

But I’m singing songs
And working too hard
I can’t stop living
I never get tired

I’ve got two loves
To keep me satisfied
No loving pain
Ever made me cry

I’m not afraid
I just want more
The things I’ve got
Is all I live for.

At the end of the song, Nanci, as many of the Woodstock performers mentions, “There sure are a lot of people here.” She then introduces the band members.

Also said at this point by another of the band members (Moore?) is: “All you cats on the sound tower got to get down…you got to come down. You gotta!

That constant reminder/request/demand that kids get off the sound towers was dominant theme of the weekend.

Sweetwater Woodstock

Why Oh Why

Here’s a little music to come down the tower by.”

This is music to get down on your knees by…so I hope you can dig it.”

I wonder what a Sweetwater song would have sounded like had they had an electric guitarist? This song is an exciting one, but I keep hearing the missing guitar licks.

Why oh why do I keep on trying. Why oh why when I know there’s
No denying. You know that I love you baby, and you know that
Love is true. If I can’t count on you baby baby then you know
What I might do.
Why oh why do I keep on telling myself that your too hip your
Gonna put me on a shelf.
Sweetwater Woodstock

Let the Sunshine In/Oh Happy Day

The band seques right into two covers: Let the Sunshine In from the then very popular play Hair and Oh Happy Day, the  very successful 1968 single by the Edwin Hawkins Singers.

Hey the west coast really gets things started!” John Morris

Interestingly, the Bert Sommer is the next performer and he was not only in the play Hair, but his hair and head appeared on the show’s first Playbill.

The next performance was by Bert Sommer.

Sweetwater Woodstock

Richie Havens Woodstock

Richie Havens Woodstock

It took 50 years for most people to hear all the music from the Woodstock Music and Art Fair.  The rumors were that It was out there. Boxed. Stored. Warehoused.

Bootlegs of much existed, but where were the originals? We even found out that some of the cuts on the original 3-disc album weren’t from Woodstock!

In 2005, producer Andy Zax found the  boxes. To use the word painstakingly is an understatement, but over the next 14 years Zax worked with the tapes and in 2019  Rhino Records released the 38-disc box entitled Woodstock – Back To The Garden:The Definitive 50th Anniversary ArchiveOther somewhat smaller offerings were also available.

Over that half century, The Woodstock Music and Art Fair had became an iconic event not just musically, but socially as well, and as with any historic event, the story often took on a life of its own. “Woodstock Haze” is a phrase alum Charlie Maloney coined to describe such inaccuracies.

Richie Havens Woodstock

Richie’s Set

One of the more famous Woodstock stories is that to avoid further delays the fretting and anxious Woodstock Ventures organizers coerced Richie Havens to open.

Havens stepped onto the stage accompanied by Paul “Deano” Williams and Danielle Ben Zebulon.

Richie’s recollection was always that after nearly 2 1/2 hours, singing every song he knew, he  left the stage in a state of sweat-soaked exhaustion. Sweat-soaked exhaustion? Yes. 2 1/2 hours no. 45 minutes.  Woodstock Haze.

Hello. How are you?

Before he began, the caring Richie speak to the crowd.

Hello. How are you? How are you in the back?  Can ‘ya hear? Groovy…wow…it’s really beautiful to see so many people together. I know it might be a tiny bit uncomfortable, but so can sleeping…be…a tiny bit uncomfortable. “

His set was as follows:

  • From the Prison > Get Together > From the Prison
  • I’m a Stranger Here
  • High Flyin’ Bird
  • I Can’t Make It Anymore
  • With A Little Help from my Friends
  • Handsome Johnny
  • Strawberry Fields Forever
  • Motherless Child/Freedom
Richie Havens Woodstock

From the Prison

Richie Havens is well known for covering others’ songs and at Woodstock he opened with Jerry Merrick’s From the Prison with abit of Dino Valenti’s Get Together in between.  From the Prison had appeared on Havens’s 1968 Something Else album.

To be kind to the next door neighbor
To be kind to the jailhouse screw;
To be kind to a child, in the fantasy wild
Is the best thing you can do
Is the best thing you can do

As simple as Havens’s presentations typically are, his guitar style combined with Williams’s guitar and Ben Zebulon’s percussion create a wonderfully effective and immediately engrossing moment.

From the Prison had appeared on Havens’s 1968 Something Else Again album.

Richie Havens Woodstock

I Am a Stranger Here

His second song is another has a familiar beginning which echoes his Motherless Child/Freedom encore.  The song had appeared on Electric Havens in 1968.

In the late ’60s, as Havens rose to stardom, producer Alan Douglas of Douglas Music had taken some original solo demos and overdubbed them with electric instruments. He called the album Electric Havens and it was one of of two albums (the other being The Richie Havens Record) of similarly overdubbed solo demos probably recorded from sometime between 1963-1965 before Havens’s first official release on Verve,  Mixed Bag  [from AllMusic. com].

I cannot find the person who wrote this song. Perhaps Havens himself.  Jerry Merrick did write a song with the same title, but it is not the song Havens sung at Woodstock.

Richie Havens Woodstock

High Flying Bird

There’s a high flyin’ bird, flying way up in the sky,
And I wonder if she looks down as she goes on by?
Well, she’s flying so freely in the sky.
Lord, look at me here,
I’m rooted like a tree here,
Got those sit-down, can’t cry,
Oh, Lord, gonna die blues.
Billy Edd Wheeler wrote the song. From a Citizen Times articleHis songs have been recorded by a musical Who’s Who: Elvis Presley, Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn, Glen Campbell, Judy Collins, The Country Gentlemen, John Denver, Hazel Dickens, Richie Havens, The Kingston Trio, Tim O’Brien, Roy Clark, Tom T. Hall, Chet Atkins, Jerry Reed, Kenny Rogers, Hank Snow and others.
Richie Havens Woodstock

I Can’t Make It Anymore

Written by Gordon Lightfoot, fans had fallen in love with this song already. It was also from Mixed Bag.

I get too low with no reason
You say its the moon or maybe the season
But something’s not the same
And I won’t let my mind believe
Baby, something’s wrong
Or the feelings gone
I can’t make it anymore
I can’t make it anymore.

Richie Havens Woodstock

With A Little Help From My Friends

Obviously a Beatle song and as good as Havens’s version it (and still is) will be Joe Cocker’s cover on Sunday that will become the Woodstock cover of this song.

Interestingly, Richie Havens was still learning the lyrics as he asks the crowd to sing along and he sort of helps them and they sort of help him. The both sort of succeed.

Richie Havens Woodstock

Handsome Johnny

Photo by Jim Shelley

Havens’ was rarely obviously political, but the song Handsome Johnny is an exception to that rule.  Louis Gossett, Jr co-wrote the song with Havens. At Richie Havens’s memorial service held on August 15, 2013 at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, Gossett told the story of how a letter arrived for him just he, a struggling Hollywood actor, was about to be evicted from his apartment.  Inside the letter was a check from Havens. The check was for royalties earned from Handsome Johnny.

Hey, what’s the use of singing this song, some of you are not even listening.
Tell me what it is we’ve got to do: wait for our fields to start glistening,
Wait for the bullets to start whistling.
Here comes a hydrogen bomb, here comes a guided missile,
Here comes a hydrogen bomb: I can almost hear its whistle.

Richie Havens Woodstock

One Hundred Million Songs

After Handsome Johnny, Havens spoke to the crowd.

There’s a hundred millions songs gonna’ be sung here tonight. All of them gonna’ be singing about the same thing which I hope everybody who came, came to hear…really…and it’s all about you…actually. You, me, and everybody around the stage and everybody who hasn’t gotten here and the people who are gonna’ read about you tomorrow. Yes. And how really groovy you were.

He then went on to talk about the clogged roads and that the reason was because though promised at the 1939 World’s Fair, the road construction had never happened. Why? Maybe we didn’t vote.

Sage words even today.

Richie Havens Woodstock

Strawberry Fields Forever

While the Beatles themselves may not have attended Woodstock, their songs were. As he typically did, Havens made the song his own.

Let me take you down
‘Cause I’m going to Strawberry Fields
Nothing is real
And nothing to get hung about
Strawberry Fields forever

Richie Havens Woodstock

Motherless Child/Freedom

He’d been on stage about 42 minutes by the end of Strawberry Fields and he walked away to Zebulon’s percussion. MC John Morris. the crowd wanted more.

A MOMENT was about to happen. Havens began playing and repeating the word freedom.

Eight times.

He then moved into Motherless Child, traditional song that dated back to American slavery. A child torn from those they loved.

It would be a vast overstatement to say the primarily white male audience at Woodstock could relate to those lyrics, but enough alienation existed in 1969 among that audience that they felt like they knew.

The next performance was Sweetwater, though Sri Swami Satchidananda spoke to the crowd in between.

Richie Havens Woodstock