Friday, April 20, 2012

Levon Helm, key member of The Band, dead at age 71

Sad day here, but obviously expected, though not this quickly.

Levon Helm, singer of "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" for The Band, in final stages of cancer

Backup on Levon Helm, singer of "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" for The Band, in final stages of cancer


It was a house in idyllic Woodstock, N.Y., rented for $125 a week and nicknamed for its distinctive pink paint job. The group would gather for hours at a time to create songs. Musicians would walk by a typewriter on the kitchen table, dash off a verse or two to a song, and wander off. A microphone once was placed on top of the hot-water heater in the basement. Although they lived in other houses nearby, the Big Pink became the place for them to live communally and make music.

In an age of war, riots and assassinations, the Band lived out a dream of simpler times. They dressed plainly, played tightly and did not upstage each other. The tall, lanky Robbie Robertson was an expert blues-rock guitarist and the group's best lyricist, his songs inspired in part by Bob Dylan and by his travels through the American South. The baby-faced Rick Danko was a fluid bassist and accomplished singer. The bearish Garth Hudson was an ingenious keyboardist of uncommon wit and emotion, while the sad-eyed Richard Manuel's haunting falsetto on "Whispering Pines," ''Tears of Rage" and others led drummer Levon Helm to call him the group's lead singer.

But for many Band admirers, honors belonged to Helm, whose life spanned and helped tell the history of rock 'n' roll, whose voice called back to the earliest days of American song.

The short, scrappy Helm, who died Thursday at age 71, had a bold tenor once likened to a town crier calling a meeting to order. He not only sang "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," but inhabited it, becoming the Confederate Virgil Caine, "hungry, just barely alive"; his brother killed by the Yankees; the South itself in ruins. It was the kind of heartbreaking, complicated story and performance that had even Northerners rooting for the proud and desperate Virgil. Helm was also the musical leader on stage, and played drums loose-limbed and funky, shoulders hunched, head to the side when he sang.

More @ OMG


  1. Brock, I should have saved you an hour of reading my earlier email, and simply posted the following here. "A sad day indeed, but, what a musical legacy he left to the world.
    RIP Levon"

  2. I'll post it here then.

    You're most welcome, for the link . It seems a strange thing, this evening while Pammee sewed and Mayme was researching military antiquities values, (her WW I and II gas mask collection to be specific) I spent most of the evening, listening to hours of music by the "Band" and Levon's band ( comprised of family and friends mostly) but excellent........... anyway while immersed in 2 1/2 hours of The Last Waltz" followed up by Songs From Big Pink, (my 2nd favorite Band album) it hit me up the head just how monumental they as band mates, and their music were. They literally impacted the world and it's events. In ways the Beatles and Stones never did and I love the music of both those bands because they changed music forever, copying or interpreting American music.
    When I listen to the Band, I remember the cold of Canada and the warmth of their people, (at least to me).

    When I watch or listen to Rick Danko, and Levon harmonize vocally, or trade licks on fiddle and mandolin, I literally get chills up my spine. I always have. Robbie Robertson, well man he is just Robbie, and having been involved with him in a small but, significant way, via Indian Activism on more than one occasion, there is a special place in my heart for him. He is a bit Canadian smug but he is a good dude overall.

    And that is not to disrespect the contributions of Garth , or hell anyone who ever played in that group in any configuration.... But, Rick and Levon, captured entire audiences, They were totally from two different worlds it’s a long way from Arkansas to Canada.

    When Robbie wrote "The Night they Drove Ole Dixie Down" man he wrote that from listening to stories Levon told to the whole band about the Confederacy, and the South as a whole. Then he just turned the song over to Levon.........rRobbie wrote it yea, but Levon arranged it, and truly made it his song..... he put the heart in it for me.

    Damn Brock, I didn't aim to get so philosophical but music has that effect on me........ and I have a lot on my plate and mind these days.....people in my world are dropping like flies, this last bout with the crud came when I was already dealing with a primary and secondary infection, and I thought well, this one is gonna put you down, and it damn near did..........but I am just so damn stubborn.


  3. Mo'

    Tomorrow is a big day, tomorrow I lead a re-consecration of a desecrated Indian burial mound, in the county north of us. I really am not physically up to it, but it has been planned for weeks, and I haven't had any alcohol for the required amount of time, so I've come this far, too late to turn around now.

    I have been immersed in the "old ways for months now", my world is so Indian these days, it's like when Pam and I met 23 years ago. Well, I am not filling lecture halls now like I was then, and I'm not in National Geographic now like I was then, but I am tearing a mighty path via the internet drum....Bazz found it quite interesting when we talked that last time...........Aston's wanting to write a book on me, hell I have 3 of my own started, Aston also asked me to perform on a project he has underway, part music part spoken word. I have no idea if any of this will come to pass. I just know there is a ton of stuff goin on in my world.

    I havent deserted the Southron Cause, I am just needed and more preciated in the "other world" I think, and everyone needs a bit of preciation now and then. I try and let you know that on occasion, but, not near as often as I should. I will try and be a bit better about it in the future.

    Monday, the new CD will actually be available.......but the big ta do is a couple weeks away, when we are having 2 release parties. One in my hometown, and one here at the pub. Lots of food, lots of musicians at both, and a ton of bad heads the next mornings I suspect. lol.................I hope it sells, I sold over $3k worth of my guitars and assorted gear to finance it and that doesn’t include the artwork and duplication costs. So in my eyes its gotta sell, it's got to sell at least as the many as the first Border Ruffians cd, just to break even.........if it breaks even I will call it a success...........that's not too much to ask in the latter pat of ones life do ya think?

    I don’t think so..................... Man this turned into a novel..............not an email. I should just hit delete and spare you. but there must be something in this worth reading..................Be safe be well my friend

  4. Brock,
    You have truly honoured's been a long time since that has occurred. Thanks falls way short.