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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Levon Helm: Gone But Not Forgotten

Levon Helm, Stephen Stills, Paul Butterfield, Neil Young, Ron Wood at The Last Waltz
Photo by Bo Shannon (c)

(Click photo to enlarge via Purple Words on a Grey Background)

We're glad to say that we had the honor and pleasure of seeing Levon Helm perform over the years. We didn't catch The Band in their very early days, but were lucky to see the various incarnations right up until last summer when Levon, while still vigorous on drums, could barely croak out a verse. Nevertheless, memories to cherish.

Much, much has been written to acknowledge Levon's place in musical history and we won't try and do justice. But we'll make note of the various musical intersections of Levon Helm and Neil Young.

Levon Helm played drums and contributed vocals on Neil Young's On The Beach (reviews) on the tracks "Revolution Blues" and "See the Sky about to Rain". Helm also appeared on "The Old Homestead" on Hawks And Doves (review) .

Bob Dylan, in a post on his official website, writes:
"He was my bosom buddy friend to the end, one of the last true great spirits of my or any other generation.

This is just so sad to talk about.

I still can remember the first day I met him and the last day I saw him. We go back pretty far and had been through some trials together. I'm going to miss him, as I'm sure a whole lot of others will too."

From Levon Helm: So Real It Makes You Believe < PopMatters by Sean Murphy:
There are certain albums you come upon at the ideal age, and I reckon, as a freshman in college, it was the ideal time to fall under the spell of Neil Young’s On the Beach. Much more on that album another time (short summary: it’s impeccable), but one of the songs that has never ceased to leave me at once unsettled and exhilarated is “See the Sky About to Rain”. It was interesting enough in its earlier incarnation as an acoustic number that Young performed on his ’71 tour. In fact, hearing that version helps you appreciate how much Young and his band did to elevate it (here I go again) to that other place.

Beyond boasting one of Young’s most desolate (and beautiful, yes beautiful) vocal performances, it has the whiskey-soaked Wurlitzer, the harmonica, the steel guitar (!) and that dark-night-of-the-soul vibe that more than a few folks—coincidentally or not—tapped into during the early-to-mid ‘70s. But mostly it has those drums: Helm’s work here is a clinic. Like all his playing and like the man himself, it is muscular, sensitive, soulful and masculine. It prods and occasionally cajoles, but it mostly keeps the time and supplies the requisite pace to the proceedings. (In a wonderfully full-circle sort of touch, Young—who had recently felt some rebel blowback for his acerbic, if accurate, cultural critiques in “Southern Man” and “Alabama”—alludes to his own recent and the region’s older history by name-checking “Dixie Land”. It’s one of those improbable moments that you shake your head at and remain in thrall of for the rest of your life.)

I can’t imagine music without Levon Helm. I can’t imagine my world without Levon Helm. Fortunately I’ll never have to.

More on Levon Helm on Purple Words on a Grey Background: RIP Levon Helm (26 May 1940 -19 April 2012)).

(Merci Jacques!)

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At 4/22/2012 04:14:00 AM, Blogger dickie said...

Amen. His fabulous drumming on "See The Sky About to rain" is what brings the song alive.

At 4/25/2012 09:16:00 AM, Blogger Mr Henry said...

See the link below for the tribute to Levon on Wilco's site, with some wonderful words from Jeff and Glenn.!/levon-helm-1940-2012/

At 4/26/2012 04:10:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks dickie, I forgot all about that little party they had going one back in the days.

He had a great harmony going on with the guys, too. Just loved the traditional folk songs that he left behind for us. The Band has always been my most favorite of favorites. I have never let go of their Lps and followed them around cutting school and just about risked my life taking rides with strangers just to see them play. They did whatever they felt like and answered to no one's expectations.

Condolences to Sandy and Amy,

Mother Nature on the Run


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