Posted by: lylescott89 | April 20, 2012

Another Legend Lost: Levon Helm (1940-2012)

Hey kids,

2012 has not been kind to the music industry.  In less than four full months we have lost Etta James, Whitney Houston, Earl Scruggs, Davy Jones, Greg Ham and Dick Clark.  And yesterday we lost one of the greatest and most influential musicians of all time, Levon Helm.  Frankly, I’m blaming the Mayans.  Levon was the drummer and often times the lead singer of The Band.  He also played the mandolin, guitar, bass, harmonica and banjo.  The man was an incredibly talented musician and, by all accounts, a great guy.  When I read a couple of days ago that he was in his final battle with cancer I was greatly saddened, even though I came to the party a bit late.

I was not really familiar with The Band until 1979.  On Thanksgiving Day in 1976 The Band held a concert in San Francisco that was to be the end of their touring career.  As with most bands that have had farewell tours this was not actually the case as The Band reformed in 1983 (Albeit without Robbie Robertson).  Anyway, the concert was known as The Last Waltz and was captured on film and made into a documentary by Martin Scorsese.  It was in 1979 that I first saw this film and despite the fact the Levon did not like the final cut, I thought it was great.  I have seen this film several times including a midnight showing with a bunch of drunks and drug addicts.  And even though I was frightened for my life that night, I still enjoyed it.  I last saw The Last Waltz in 2003 and it still impressed me.
The Last Waltz chronicled the final performance by The Band as they were joined on stage by several other greats from the music industry including Bob Dylan, Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton, Joni Mitchell and Neil Young.  But what hit me the most was seeing Levon Helm on the drums and singing lead.  I had never seen that before and it really impressed me.  As I heard him sing such classics as “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”, “Up on Cripple Creek” and what is quite possibly the greatest rock and roll song of all time, “The Weight”, I became an instant fan.  I was also upset that I was now a fan of yet another band that was no longer making new music.  Apparently I am always late to the party.

I know that I have said before that I am not a huge fan of going to concerts and not big on concert films so you know if I say I liked a concert film it had to be something special.

Levon also dabbled in acting for a while appearing in such films as The Right Stuff and Coal Miner’s Daughter.  But first and foremost he will be remembered as a musician.  A musician that even inspired Elton John and Bernie Taupin to use his name as the subject of their song, Levon.  (I don’t know who Alvin Tostig is named after so please do not ask)

The Band was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.  They have been an influence to countless other bands and musicians.  Even the opening line of “The Weight” was used to give Nazareth the name of their band.   And while the brilliant writing of Robbie Robertson was vital to The Band’s success, it was the searing vocals of Levon Helm that brought those lyrics to life and made them enduring.  Do yourself a favor this weekend and sit and listen to The Band’s first album, Music from Big Pink.  You will not be disappointed.  Levon Helm, I want to thank you for all the great music.  You will be missed.




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