Friday, April 20, 2012


Levon Helm
Levon Helm, one of the most outstanding touring musicians every to share his sounds with this, or any country, just passed away today. One of the last remaining members of The Band, I was fortunate enough to see Levon play on several occasions. Limited by health but not spirit, his dedication to music was evident in every beat he ever hit and word he ever sang. He will be hugely missed.

I looked to my friend Ben, a talented drummer, huge Fan of The Band, and proud EDAS contributor.  He and I saw Levon together at the Beacon Theater in 2008, and both went on to see him subsequent times.  Like many true music fans, he was saddened to hear the news but was ripe with words. He had this to say:
Almost a year ago to the day, on my birthday, I had the pleasure of seeing Levon at one of his Rambles at his home in Woodstock, NY. Sitting in the intimate audience, a mere 20 ft from Levon himself, I had trouble choking back the tears of joy that now, as tears of sorrow, flow more freely. I was struck not only by his drumming and passion for the music, but also by the incredible respect and adoration the other musicians (all of whom were great in their own right) clearly displayed for the late Mr. Helm. With his drum kit off to the side, it seemed as if he wished only to participate in the concert - to be a part of the music - but not to dominate it. It didn't work. Granted it was Levon's home and Levon's band, but still. The constant grinning glances he received from his regular band mates as well as his famed guests (John Sebastian and Natalie Merchant, when I was there) told a consistent story: Levon Helm was not only an incredible player and titan of 20th century rock, but an inspiration to all. His love and passion will live on through his music for generations to come. He will be dearly missed. Here's to you, Levon. It doesn't matter if you knew him or not, take my word for it: a hero is dead. Whatever you do, make sure you pour one out for the Ramblin' Boy from Arkansas.
At that Beacon concert in 2008, Levon's special guests included Clarence Clemmons and Phoebe Snow. Three great talents that gave their souls to this world and passed on from it within the last year. I guess it's beginning to be a difficult time to be a fan of the classics.

In honor of the only American member of the "quintessential American Rock Group," I've got prepared two songs. The first one was from the beginning of his largely successful solo career, where he teamed up with some of the best players in the game and earned their respect and friendship. My favorite is You Got Me, from the album he did with the RCO All Stars, which included Dr. John, Booker T., Paul Butterfield and some of the foremost studio musicians of the era.

The finale is chosen from the posthumously ironic Last Waltz, where he sings quite possibly the best ballad of all time. Rest In Peace Levon, congratulations on a job incredibly well done.
 Levon Helm - You Got Me Spinnin'

The Band - The Night They Drove Ol' Dixie Down