By Jacob Katel
By Laurie Charles
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Abel Folgar
By Kat Bein
By Jacob Katel
Apart from her continuing musical endeavors, Melanie's time is devoted to her children and to charity. Twenty years ago she toured the world as a spokeswoman for UNICEF, even performing at the United Nations general assembly. Now she works with a foundation established to help artists "who got screwed by the industry." A few weeks ago she played at a fund raiser for the All Children's Hospital in Tampa. She doesn't make much of her charity work, content with the knowledge she's helping people. She's not interested in using charity work to further her career. "I don't go to Liza Minnelli's parties," she says. "Being `visible' is nonsense."
The other stars on the Rockin' Freedom Fest bill have had their share of ups and downs, mostly of the low-visibility variety. After Al Wilson's death on September 3, 1970, Canned Heat pushed on, teaming with blues legend John Lee Hooker and issuing their own albums. But in 1981 the group's other leader, Bob "Bear" Hite, also died. The current line-up is led by Adolpho "Fito" de la Parra, who joined the band in 1968, and guitarist Harvey Mandel, who's been with the Heat since 1969.
Country Joe McDonald began his career in high school when he wrote a campaign song for a friend who was running for class president. (He won.) While recording and performing with the Fish on a regular basis, he went solo for Woodstock. After years of family and financial problems, McDonald is back at it, playing solo. And continuing to write about Vietnam - one of his more recent compositions is called "A Vietnam Veteran Still Alive."
Richie Havens has had the best luck of the lot. He's turned his attention to environmental concerns, his live shows remain spectacular in their abandon and virtuosity, and he currently has two albums out - Now consists of new material, and Live at the Cellar Door and the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium is a collection of live work recorded twenty years ago. Havens sees no problem with digging into the past, because he believes that songs should survive the generations, that music made twenty years ago can be as relevant as material fresh from the hopper.
Melanie, whose performance Thursday will be capped by the releasing of a thousand white doves, just like at Woodstock, recently released a song about the war in the Persian Gulf. "(We) Stand By You," which lifts the melody and arrangement of Ben E. King's classic "Stand By Me," is a yellow-ribbon waver if ever there was one: "Oh, you put your life on the line/And we stand by you," Melanie sings. "We are brothers and sisters/And we stand by you."
"Basically I'm a pacifist," the Woodstock veteran explains. "War should be avoided. This was a different war. Vietnam was immoral. There was no backing of our people." Melanie learned a lesson during Vietnam that helps explain the sentiment of her new single (which isn't included on the album). While insisting that war should be protested - preferably before it begins - she adds, "One real tragedy out of the [Vietnam] war demonstrations was the poor guys in the military. While doing peace demonstrations, I also sang at West Point and at bases in Europe. It was really sad. They hated the idea that nobody supported them while they were out there risking their lives. I feel for people in that situation."
The Sixties survivor is convinced she entered the world already equipped with compassion. She doesn't think for a minute that peace and love are passe, even in the face of America's outrageous celebration of war. "When I was born," she says, "and I actually remember this, I knew I was going to help people. When I got older, I wanted to join the Peace Corps, but they didn't want me. They didn't want a singer, they wanted engineers and agricultural people. But I could have sung to people. That would have been good."
ROCKIN' FREEDOM FEST with Melanie, Richie Havens, Canned Heat, Country Joe McDonald, and four local acts begins at noon on Thursday, July 4 at Tamiami Stadium, 10901 SW 24th St, 223-7070. Tickets cost $10.50 and $13.50.