Richie Havens on meeting the Dalai Lama

For me, Richie Havens will always be as big as his voice, as big as the day he opened Woodstock and became the voice of his generation.  He was one of the first musicians I interviewed as a newbie reporter.

What I'd like to share with you here is part of our conversation that never made it to print. Out of all of the interviews I've done, Havens' answer to the question "What was it like, meeting the Dalai Lama?" was by far the most intriguing answer I’ve gotten from an interviewee.

"Gene, I swear to you this is true!" he started. "I was in line to meet the Dalai Lama and I saw Harrison Ford in line. I love talking to Harrison, so I left my place in line to go talk to him."

Havens went on to say that by the time he and his buddy — the famous recluse movie star — were done shooting the breeze the line disappeared. Havens thought he was about to miss his chance to meet the spiritual leader, so he started making a beeline down the aisle.

When the Dalai Lama saw Havens running toward him, he got out from behind his table and started running up the aisle toward Havens. The two intersected and Havens emphasized again, "Gene, I swear this is what happened!"

The Dalai Lama grabbed Havens by the beard and started pulling his head side to side by the hair on his chin and from Haven's perspective, time slowed down and a mystical moment began. What Havens saw was the Dalai Lama as a little boy swinging from his beard, laughing.

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