Friday, January 22, 2010

Havens and Domingo - The Cosmos at Work

Each morning when I wake up I grab my morning paper and scan the headlines. Then I look inside the front page at “This Day In History”, to gain context I suppose. And then I look at "Today’s Birthdays", which always holds a surprise of one sort or another.

For instance, last year when Olivia De Havilland died, I hadn’t even realized she was still alive! The same thing happened with Betty Hutton. So I like to keep track. But every now and then I look and see two people born on the same day, same year and doing the same thing as one another all their lives. And it always strikes me as odd.

Was there something in the air that January day in Brooklyn when Richie Havens was born in 1941? And what was going on in Madrid, Spain that same day when Placido Domingo made his entrance into the world?

Richie Havens was one of 9 children. From an early age he began singing on street corners in “Doo Wop” groups and by 1957 was with The McCrea Gospel Singers.

His first influences were Nina Simone and then Dino Valenti. As he began to frequent Greenwich Village he started doing portraits and eventually began singing in the coffee houses that were the mainstay of the Village in the late 1950’s. By the time 1960 rolled around he was in demand on most college campuses as a singer from coast to coast.

Meantime, in Madrid, Placido Domingo was on a parallel path. By age 7 he was studying and performing with his parents, who were Zarzuela singers in Mexico City. He was a busy little man, also studying piano with Manuel Barajas and taking voice lessons at the National Conservatory.

Making his debut as Borsa in Rigoletto at about the same time that Richie Havens was appearing for the first time in New York- these two would continue on parallel courses that continue to this day.

By 1966 both were established in their respective careers, although they would not reach their respective peaks for a few more years.

In 1966 Havens was appearing at The Newport Folk Festival and Domingo was appearing in New York as Pinkerton in Madam Butterfly with the New York City Opera. When 1968 rolled around Havens was appearing at Monterey Pop while Domingo made his debut with the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

The big year for both came in 1969, when Havens opened Woodstock and cemented his place in Rock and Roll History, just as Domingo was joining Milan’s La Scala and London’s Covent Garden Opera Company's. From this point on both would be recognized as leading talents in their respective genres. Both would go on to do Television and Movie appearances as well as pursue Cultural and Philanthropic goals.

I have no conclusions; and maybe it’s all just a meaningless coincidence. But 2 of the world’s most passionate singers share more than just great voices and a love for music. They share a birthday.

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