The Second Disc

Expanded and Remastered Music News

R.I.P. Levon Helm (1940-2012)

with 12 comments

American popular music has lost another one of the greats with today’s passing of singer/drummer Levon Helm, 71.  Though few groups would have the audacity to name themselves The Band, that’s exactly what Helm, Robbie Robertson, Garth Hudson, Rick Danko and Richard Manuel did. The former Hawks crystallized the sound that spawned a thousand imitators, returning rock to its most stripped-down American roots.  The Band backed Bob Dylan, was admired by The Beatles, and epitomized the burgeoning back-to-basics “Americana” as an antidote to the bigger and bigger progressive rock  “FM” sounds of the day.  Prominently featured on immortal songs like “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” “Up on Cripple Creek” and “The Weight,” Helm’s voice is part of the fabric of American music.  On albums like The Band, Stage Fright and Music from Big Pink, The Band stepped out of Dylan’s shadow and forged a niche in pop and rock that the group will forever occupy.  He continued the tradition with his own well-regarded solo albums and as the host of live Midnight Rambles in his Woodstock home.  Please join us below in sharing your memories of Levon Helm, a musician’s musician.

Written by Joe Marchese

April 19, 2012 at 15:42

Posted in Levon Helm, News, The Band

12 Responses

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  1. Such sad news. One of the true greats of American music. Unlike so many who have gone before him, at least he was appreciated while he was still here, and he left us knowing how much he was loved.

    ronfwnc

    April 19, 2012 at 15:46

  2. RIP Levon….Thanks for the music!

    Jim Regan (@Jbones72)

    April 19, 2012 at 15:47

  3. As a drummer myself, I always loved his drumming, but that was just part of what made him great. That voice of his was one of a kind. Last year, The Band was one of the first artists whose complete catalog I revisited for my blog, and I gained a whole new appreciation for his musicianship. I also bought both of his recent solo albums and was amazed by how well his voice had held up after such a long battle with cancer. Any Band fans who haven’t checked out those albums (“Dirt Farmer” and “Electric Dirt”) should give them a shot. R.I.P., Levon.

  4. I was just in my early teens when I saw Levon and Rick Danko touring with Ringo Starr – his drumming and Rick’s bass playing, combined with the few songs they sang opened my world to The Band – for that I’ll be forever thankful.

    pete

    April 19, 2012 at 19:40

  5. I broadcast a 2 hour radio tribute to Levon last night, and perhaps some of his neighbors in Woodstock picked it up.

    It might be enjoyable to make up a compilation CD or two of Levon’s lead vocals with The Band.

    It is interesting how the 1973 Watkins Glen concert has been so overlooked by the media. It was larger than Woodstock, and is still considered to have been the largest gathering of people ever to occur in America (with reported numbers ranging from 600,000 to 750,000). Levon was right at the center of that event, and few on earth can say that.

    Kevin

    April 20, 2012 at 09:10

    • Good post, Kevin. Would have loved to hear your tribute show.

      The problem with Watkins Glen is the lack of evidence, since the Capitol CD is a fraud, consisting of Rock of Ages outtakes and doctored studio tracks. I think if the Glen had been filmed and recorded like Woodstock or The Last Waltz, it would be more widely remembered and cherished.

      Ironically, both the Allmans and the Dead’s sets at Watkins Glen have been widely available for years.

      ronfwnc

      April 20, 2012 at 09:36

      • All I know is that 20 people crashed in my apartment (Ithaca) on their way to Watkins Glen. I didn’t go because I prefered small venues.

        Kevin

        April 20, 2012 at 09:38

      • Wait… the ABB and GD sets are widely available? Where?

        Oh… Did you mean bootlegs? Here I was wanting to know where the “official releases” are. Pretty sure those have never happened. I wish they would though. Damn.

        Shaun

        April 20, 2012 at 14:09

      • Actually, Wolfgang’s Vault has the Dead’s Glen set available for download.

        ronfwnc

        April 20, 2012 at 15:38

      • I wasn’t aware of that… I will have to head to Wolfgang’s Vault and snag that! I’m surprised I never knew about that. Thanks Ron!

        I should also mention how I sad I am to hear about Levon Helm… I’ve loved his voice and oh-so-hard drumming for many years. I was fortunate to see him (and Rick Danko) with the Ringo tour back in 1989, and then just a couple of summers playing that wonderful music from his last two studio albums, and Band songs of course,

        I got to (very briefly) meet him after the show and thank him for the music. Music brought him joy, and he spread that joy to the rest of us. Now the world has a little less joy in it, but at least we still have Levon’s music to remember him by. Take a load off, Levon… You’ve earned it.

        Shaun

        April 20, 2012 at 18:42

      • Just checked out Wolfgang’s Vault… Turns out you’re partly right. There is a GD “show” from Watkins Glen available for download there… But it’s actually the two-hour soundcheck they played the day before the actual concert! The show with The Band and ABB was on 4/28, the performance on W’s Vault is from 4/27 and is the soundcheck.

        The “Jam” portion of the soundcheck, played out of “Me and My Uncle,” is pretty famous and was previously released on the So Many Roads box set over a decade ago. From what I understand, the soundcheck bootleg is of far better sound quality than recordings of the actual concert itself that currently circulate.

        According to comments on the Vault site, apparently The Band and ABB did soundchecks the day before too, and people were let in to see/hear them, but neither of the other two bands played for as long as the Dead did… They played a two-hour soundcheck/show free of charge.

        So, anyhow, to date there’s (as far as I know) no official release of anyone’s performances from the actual Watkins Glen concert. That release from The Band was an absolute fraud and, I believe, has since been pulled off the market (and rightly so). If there are good tapes still in existence, it would be great to see all of those performances released some day. They’d all be on different labels, but still. This is rock history we’re talking about!

        I’m going to purchase the soundcheck though… Still more or less a full show (the song on the opening song is shaky, but it’s great after that) and the price is right! I’m glad that the Vault makes FLAC downloads available.

        Shaun

        April 21, 2012 at 23:07

  6. Bob Dylan (from his website):
    “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.”

    Kevin

    April 20, 2012 at 09:36


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