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Forums > Music: Non-Prince > Levon Helm of The Band Dies
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Thread started 04/19/12 12:19pm

Identity

Levon Helm of The Band Dies

April 19, 2012

Link

Levon Helm, singer and drummer for the Band, died on April 19th in New York of throat cancer. He was 71.

"He passed away peacefully at 1:30 this afternoon surrounded by his friends and bandmates," Helm's longtime guitarist Larry Campbell tells Rolling Stone. "All his friends were there, and it seemed like Levon was waiting for them. Ten minutes after they left we sat there and he just faded away. He did it with dignity. It was even two days ago they thought it would happen within hours, but he held on. It seems like he was Levon up to the end, doing it the way he wanted to do it. He loved us, we loved him."

In the late Nineties, Helm – whose singing anchored Band classics like "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," "Up on Cripple Creek," "Rag Mama Rag," and "The Weight" – was diagnosed with throat cancer and underwent 28 radiation treatments, eventually recovering his voice.

In recent weeks, however, Helm had canceled a number of shows, including one at the New Orleans Jazz Fest on April 27th and another in Montclair, New Jersey. A note posted to his website on Tuesday from his daughter Amy and wife Sandy said that Helm was in the "final stages of his battle with cancer. Please send your prayers and love to him as he makes his way through this part of his journey. Thank you fans and music lovers who have made his life so filled with joy and celebration...he has loved nothing more than to play, to fill the room up with music, lay down the back beat, and make the people dance! He did it every time he took the stage."

Born May 26, 1940 in Arkansas, Helm was literally a witness to the birth of rock & roll; as a teenager, he saw Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis in concert and was inspired to play drums after seeing Lewis' drummer, Jimmy Van Eaton. (Helm went on to play mandolin and other stringed instruments as well). In 1960, Helm joined the backup band of rockabilly wildman Ronnie Hawkins – a group that would eventually include Robbie Robertson, Richard Manuel, Rick Danko and Garth Hudson, all future members of the Band.

The musicians broke from Hawkins to form their own group – their names included the Crackers and Levon and the Hawks – but it was their association with Bob Dylan that cemented their reputation. After Dylan saw the group in a club (either in Canada or New Jersey, depending on the source), he invited Helm and guitarist Robertson to join his electric band. "Bob Dylan was unknown to us," Helm wrote in his 1993 memoir This Wheel's on Fire. "I knew he was a folksinger and songwriter whose hero was Woody Guthrie. And that's it."

Robertson and Helm were in Dylan's electric band for his controversial, frequently booed show at New York's Forest Hills Tennis Stadium. Afterward, various members of the Band played on Dylan's Blonde on Blonde and toured with him in 1966. (Helm left temporary in 1965, tired of the ongoing hostility from Dylan's folk fans.)

Recuperating in Woodstock after his 1966 motorcycle accident, Dylan again hooked up with the band that would soon be the Band. Before Helm rejoined them, they recorded the landmark Basement Tapes, and the Band's crackling, homespun take on American roots music began to take shape.

Rechristening themselves the Band, they signed to Capitol Records and released two classic albums, Music From Big Pink (1968) and The Band (1969). Although Robertson was the Band's principal songwriter, it was Helm's beautifully gruff and ornery voice that brought the Canadian Robertson's mythic Americana songs to life. He was also one of rock's earliest singing drummers.

In 1976, at Robertson's urging, the Band broke up after its farewell concert, known as "The Last Waltz." In meetings before the concert and as recounted in This Wheel's on Fire, Helm was adamantly opposed to the group disbanding. "I didn't want any part of it," he wrote. "I didn't want to break up the band." He begrudgingly went along, but his relationship with Robertson was never the same. After the show, Helm formed his own band, Levon Helm and the RCO All Stars, featuring fellow legends Dr. John, Steve Cropper, and Booker T. Jones, and recorded several solo albums.

Helm also ventured into acting with an acclaimed role in 1980's Coal Miner's Daughter, playing Loretta Lynn (Sissy Spacek's) father. But he couldn't leave the Band behind, and with Danko, Manuel, and Hudson, he formed a new version of the Band in the early Eighties, recording three new studio albums with them.

The Band continued for a while after Manuel's suicide by hanging in 1986, but Danko's death in 1999 of heart failure ended the Band once and for all. By then, Helm was dealing with throat cancer. After his recovery, he began holding intimate concerts in his combination barn and studio in Woodstock, called the "Midnight Ramble," in part to pay his medical bills.

The low-key, woodsy performances became must-see shows and attracted a rock who's who; Elvis Costello, Natalie Merchant, the Grateful Dead's Phil Lesh and Donald Fagen were among the many who joined Helm and his band. The Ramble shows led to two acclaimed Helm solo albums – one of which, 2007's Dirt Farmer, won a Grammy in the Best Traditional Folk category. "This go-round has been a lot more fun," Helm told Rolling Stone in 2009. "Now I know I've got enough voice to do it."

When the Band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, Helm didn't attend, revealing that his feud with Robertson was still on. "I thought Levon was going to show," Robertson told Rolling Stone a few years later. "Then that evening they said he changed his mind and wasn't going to come. And I thought, 'Oh, God, it would have been better if he was here.'"

Helm's throat cancer had taken a toll on his singing voice. On stage and in recent interviews, his voice was sometimes strong but other times was reduced to a low rasp. But at one his last shows, in Ann Arbor on March 19th with a 13-piece band, the audience roared when he sang the Band classic "Ophelia." "I'm not the poster boy of good health," he said in an interview last year. "But I'm not doing too bad. I still got the energy to make music. As long as I can do that, I'm great."




[Edited 4/21/12 7:16am]

Reply #1 posted 04/19/12 12:22pm

Identity

From The Last Waltz concert movie, featuring Levon on lead vocals and drums.


[Edited 4/19/12 12:29pm]

Reply #2 posted 04/19/12 12:30pm

Timmy84

Rest peacefully Levon.

Reply #3 posted 04/19/12 12:33pm

Empress

I had a feeling we would hear this today or tomorrow.

RIP

Reply #4 posted 04/19/12 12:37pm

nursev

rose

Reply #5 posted 04/19/12 12:39pm

Identity

Their eponymous 1969 album is a must-have classic. I was enthralled by Robbie Robertson's gift for penning folkish, melodic songs.

For decades, Levon and Robbie fought bitterly over songwriting credits; however, Robbie has confirmed that he visited him in the hospital just a few days ago.







[Edited 4/19/12 13:18pm]

Reply #6 posted 04/19/12 12:41pm

NDRU

Bummer

I did not know he had cancer, but I was watching the commentary for The Last Waltz, and Levon's voice was almost totally gone.

Not too many drummers are the singer for the band, and he did both roles really well.

I could watch this a million times in a row...

Reply #7 posted 04/19/12 12:44pm

NoVideo

One of the all time greats.

50 Best Pop Albums of the '90s

http://www.metroweekly.co...f-the-90s/
Reply #8 posted 04/19/12 6:51pm

Identity

"King Harvest" is a memorable track about the plight of a dirt-poor farmer. Levon sings the aching chorus with Richard Manuel.

Reply #9 posted 04/19/12 6:57pm

Timmy84

Reply #10 posted 04/19/12 7:27pm

JazzyJ

RIP Levon Helm

Reply #11 posted 04/19/12 7:31pm

Gunsnhalen

sad how sad! i love these guys. Bob Dylan just posted a thing talking about his friendship with Levon

Pistols sounded like "Fuck off," wheras The Clash sounded like "Fuck Off, but here's why.."- Thedigitialgardener

Datdonkeydick- Asherfierce
Reply #12 posted 04/19/12 7:56pm

DiminutiveRocker

Gunsnhalen said:

sad how sad! i love these guys. Bob Dylan just posted a thing talking about his friendship with Levon

Where is the Dylan post?

Robbie Robertson posted a lovely eulogy on his FB page.

"Last week I was shocked and so saddened to hear that my old band mate, Levon, was in the final stages of his battle with cancer. It hit me really hard because I thought he had beaten throat cancer and had no idea that he was this ill. I spoke with his family and made arrangements to go and see him.


On Sunday I went to New York and visited him in the hospital. I sat with Levon for a good while, and thought of the incredible and beautiful times we had together. It was heartwarming to be greeted by his lovely daughter Amy, whom I have known since she was born. Amy’s mother, Libby Titus, and her husband, Donald Fagen, were so kind to help walk me through this terrible time of sadness. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife Sandy.

Levon is one of the most extraordinary talented people I’ve ever known and very much like an older brother to me. I am so grateful I got to see him one last time and will miss him and love him forever."

-Robbie Robertson


This is sad sad

RIP Levon rose

[Edited 4/19/12 20:01pm]

Consider the rights of others before your own feelings, and the feelings of others before your own rights.
~ John Wooden
Reply #13 posted 04/19/12 8:00pm

TD3

Mr. Levon Helm RIP rose

Reply #14 posted 04/19/12 8:00pm

theAudience




...Endless Highway & I Shall Be Released



Music for adventurous listeners


tA

peace Tribal Records

"Ya see, we're not interested in what you know...but what you are willing to learn. C'mon y'all."
Reply #15 posted 04/20/12 5:12am

Identity

Bob Dylan Remembers Levon Helm: 'One of the Last True Great Spirits'

by David Greenwald

Bob Dylan and the Band had a thrilling musical relationship, but with the death of drummer Levon Helm on Thursday, it's the personal connection that Dylan remembers.

"He was my bosom buddy friend to the end, one of the last true great spirits of my or any other generation," Dylan wrote on his official website on Thursday. "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."

The Band backed Dylan on numerous occasions over the years, performing on the famed Basement Tapes and joining him on tour in the '60s and '70s. Dylan is one of the many musicians who appears in The Last Waltz, the concert film that documents the Band's farewell concert.

Helm was 71. His death came a day after the announcement that he was in the final stages of a battle with cancer.

http://www.billboard.com/...5152.story

Reply #16 posted 04/20/12 9:11am

Ace

All three Band vocalists now gone. RIP, Mr. Helm.

"I love to while away the hours while other people do their meanwhiles..." - Andy Warhol
Reply #17 posted 04/20/12 9:45am

Identity

Levon Helm, Drummer and Rough-Throated Singer for the Band, Dies at 71

April 20, 2012

Levon Helm, who helped to forge a deep-rooted American music as the drummer and singer for the Band, died on Thursday in Manhattan. He was 71 and lived in Woodstock, N.Y.

His death, at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, was from complications of cancer, a spokeswoman for Vanguard Records said. He had recorded several albums for the label.

In Helm’s drumming, muscle, swing, economy and finesse were inseparably merged. His voice held the bluesy, weathered and resilient essence of his Arkansas upbringing in the Mississippi Delta.

Helm was the American linchpin of the otherwise Canadian group that became Bob Dylan’s backup band and then the Band. Its own songs, largely written by the Band’s guitarist, Jaime Robbie Robertson, and pianist, Richard Manuel, spring from roadhouse, church, backwoods, river and farm; they are rock-ribbed with history and tradition yet hauntingly surreal.

After the Band broke up in 1976, Helm continued to perform at every opportunity, working with a partly reunited Band and leading his own groups. He also acted in films, notably “Coal Miner’s Daughter” (1980). In the 2000s he became a roots-music patriarch, turning his barn in Woodstock — which had been a recording studio since 1975 — into the home of down-home, eclectic concerts called Midnight Rambles, which led to tours and Grammy-winning albums.

Helm gave his drums a muffled, bottom-heavy sound that placed them in the foundation of the arrangements, and his tom-toms were tuned so that their pitch would bend downward as the tone faded. Helm didn’t call attention to himself. Three bass-drum thumps at the start of one of the Band’s anthems, “The Weight,” were all that he needed to establish the song’s gravity.

His playing served the song. In “The Shape I’m In,” he juxtaposed Memphis soul, New Orleans rumba and military tattoo. But while it was tersely responsive to the music, the drumming also had an improvisational feel.

In the Band, lead vocals changed from song to song and sometimes within songs, and harmonies were elaborately communal. But particularly when lyrics turned to myths and tall tales of the American South — like “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” “Ophelia” and “Rag Mama Rag” — the lead went to Helm, with his Arkansas twang and a voice that could sound desperate, ornery and amused at the same time.

In a 1984 interview with Modern Drummer magazine, Helm described the “right ingredients” for his work in music and film as “life and breath, heart and soul.”

Mark Lavon Helm was born on May 26, 1940, in Elaine, Ark., the son of a cotton farmer with land near Turkey Scratch, Ark. In his 1993 autobiography, “This Wheel’s on Fire: Levon Helm and the Story of the Band,“ written with Stephen Davis, Helm said he was part Chickasaw Indian through his paternal grandmother. He grew up hearing live bluegrass, Delta blues, country and the beginnings of rock ’n’ roll; Memphis was just across the river.

His father gave him a guitar when he was 9, and he soon started performing: in a duo with his sister Linda and in a high school rock ‘n’ roll band, the Jungle Bush Beaters. He also played drums in the Marvell High School band.

Helm was in 11th grade when the Arkansas-born rockabilly singer Ronnie Hawkins hired him as a drummer. He traveled with Hawkins to Canada, where the shows paid better, and Hawkins settled there and formed a band. Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks played six nights a week in Ontario and had a number of hit singles, like “Mary Lou.” They performed on Dick Clark’s TV show “American Bandstand.”

By 1961 Hawkins had assembled the lineup that would become the Band: Mr. Helm, Robertson, Manuel, Rick Danko on bass and Garth Hudson on organ. “He knew what musicians had the fire,” Helm said of Hawkins. The others had trouble pronouncing Lavon, so Helm began calling himself Levon.

In 1963, weary of Hawkins’s discipline, the five Hawks started their own bar-band career as Levon and the Hawks. The blues singer John Hammond Jr. heard them in Toronto and brought Robertson, Hudson and Helm into the studio in 1964 to back him on the album “So Many Roads.”

Bob Dylan had famously brought an electric band to the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, and after its members had made other commitments, he hired Robertson and Helm for a summer tour.


Reply #18 posted 04/20/12 9:54am

Identity

At their first rehearsals, Helm recalled, his reaction to Dylan was, “I couldn’t believe how many words this guy had in his music, or how he remembered them all.” Before playing their first show, at Forest Hills Tennis Stadium in Queens, Dylan told the band, “Just keep playing, no matter how weird it gets.”

They polarized the audience — those wanting to hear only Dylan’s folk music booed — and while a subsequent concert at the Hollywood Bowl was better received, another band member, the keyboardist Al Kooper, chose to leave. At that point Helm told Albert Grossman, Dylan’s manager, “Take us all, or don’t take anybody.” The Hawks became Dylan’s band.

They backed Dylan on a studio single, “Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?,” and toured with him through the fall, still getting booed. Helm quit the band late in 1965. “I wasn’t made to be booed,“ he wrote.

Mr. Dylan’s motorcycle accident in 1966 ended his touring with the Hawks. While he recuperated in Woodstock the Hawks, who were on retainer, rented a big pink house in a neighboring town, West Saugerties, for $125 a month.

For most of 1967 the Hawks, with Manuel playing drums, worked five days a week on music: writing songs with and without Dylan, playing them at his home and at the house they called Big Pink, and recording them on a two-track tape recorder in the basement. Songs sent to Dylan’s publisher were soon bootlegged.

In the winter of 1967, the band summoned Helm to rejoin them. With Manuel on drums, Helm picked up mandolin, though he would soon return to drums. Grossman got the Hawks their own recording contract with Capitol in February 1968, initially as the Crackers, a name Capitol didn’t like.

There was no band name on the LP label or front cover of “Music From Big Pink,” the group’s debut album, which simply had a painting by Dylan as its cover. (The songs had been written at Big Pink but recorded in professional studios.) The LP label listed all the music.

Released on July 1, 1968, a year after the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” “Music From Big Pink” was “rebelling against the rebellion,” Helm wrote.

There were no elaborate studio confections, no psychedelic jams, no gimmicks; the music was stately and homespun, with a deliberately old-time tone behind the enigmatic lyrics. Sales were modest, but the album’s influence was huge, leading musicians like Eric Clapton and the Grateful Dead back toward concision.

The Band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.

Adding to its mystique, the Band didn’t tour until 1969 because Danko broke his neck in an auto accident. It made its concert debut as the Band at Winterland in San Francisco in April 1969.

By then, the Band was well into recording its second album, simply titled “The Band,” which would include the group’s only Top 30 single, “Up on Cripple Creek.” The album was universally hailed, and the Band played a summer of huge pop festivals, backing Dylan at the Isle of Wight and performing in August at Woodstock.

In 1970, Helm and the songwriter Libby Titus had a daughter, Amy Helm, now a member of the band Ollabelle; she survives him, along with his wife since 1981, the former Sandra Dodd, and two grandchildren.

The Band would never match its two initial masterpieces. By the time the group started recording its 1970 album, “Stage Fright,” members were drinking heavily and using heroin, and there were disputes over songwriting credits and publishing royalties, of which Robertson had by far the greatest share.

The collaborative spirit of the first two albums was disappearing. But the Band’s career had momentum; it produced several more studio albums, toured internationally, and a live album, “Rock of Ages,” reached the Top 10 in 1972.

In 1973, the Band, the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers were the triple bill for the Watkins Glen festival, which drew 600,000 people to upstate New York — larger than Woodstock. In 1974, the Band made an album with Dylan, “Planet Waves,” and toured with him.

“The Basement Tapes,” a collection of songs with and without Dylan from the Big Pink era, was released in 1975.

In September 1976, Robertson decided to declare the end of the Band’s touring career with a grand finale: “The Last Waltz,” an all-star concert at Winterland on Thanksgiving 1976.

Recorded for an album, it was also filmed by Martin Scorsese and released under the same title. Helm hated the film, believing that it glorified Robertson and slighted the rest of the Band. After “The Last Waltz,” the original Band lineup returned to the studio for one last album, the desultory “Islands,” which completed its Capitol contract.

Helm had already embarked on a solo career. He also branched out into acting, playing Loretta Lynn’s father in “Coal Miner’s Daughter” as well as roles in “The Right Stuff” and in a television movie with Jane Fonda, “The Dollmaker.”

But Helm wanted above all to be a working musician. In the early 1980s he toured with his fellow Band members, minus Robertson. They were on the road in 1986 when Mr. Manuel committed suicide at 42. But Helm, Danko and Hudson continued to work together as the Band, with additional musicians and songwriters, releasing three albums during the 1990s.

Danko died in 1999 at 56. Meanwhile, Helm’s barn studio became a hub for musicians from Woodstock and beyond, often with Mr. Helm and Mr. Hudson sitting in. Helm, a heavy smoker, contracted throat cancer in the late 1990s, and for months he could not speak above a whisper.

A tumor was removed from his vocal cords, and he underwent 28 radiation treatments. Medical bills threatened him with the loss of his home. Partly to raise money, he began hosting the Midnight Rambles at his barn in 2004. More house parties than concerts, they featured unannounced guest stars and a band of his own that delved into Americana as well as the Band catalog.

His voice strengthened, and the core of his Midnight Ramble bands became a touring and recording group; it performed in 2009 at the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock Festival on its site in Bethel, N.Y., although Helm was unable to sing that night.

Helm’s 2007 and 2009 studio albums, “Dirt Farmer” and “Electric Dirt,” won Grammy Awards, as did his 2011 “Ramble at the Ryman,” recorded live in Nashville and broadcast on PBS.

Nearly to the end, Helm spent his life on the bandstand. “If it doesn’t come from your heart,” he wrote, “music just doesn’t work.”

http://www.nytimes.com/20...2&_r=1


Reply #19 posted 04/20/12 11:57am

JoeBala

The Last Waltz Is a movie I always wanted to see, but never got a chance. I'm not familiar with their music, but I'm sure it's great. RIP Levon. sad

Just Music-No Categories-Enjoy It!
Reply #20 posted 04/20/12 12:09pm

Identity

Many years ago I had the Last Waltz on VHS. I must have watched it 30 times. The Band played at peak performance, and the guest acts were a who's who of music royalty. I think I'll look for the DVD tomorrow.


[Edited 4/20/12 12:16pm]

Reply #21 posted 04/20/12 12:31pm

NDRU

JoeBala said:

The Last Waltz Is a movie I always wanted to see, but never got a chance. I'm not familiar with their music, but I'm sure it's great. RIP Levon. sad

The first few videos on this thread are from the movie.

But the movie is also great for the guest stars. Watch Van Morrison nearly have a heart attack doing Caravan!

Reply #22 posted 04/20/12 4:20pm

Identity

The Levon Helm Band performing at Austin City ...

The Hard-Won Lessons of Levon Helm's Life in the Record Business

April 20, 2012

I think one of the reasons for the tremendous, and appropriate, outpouring of affection for the late Levon Helm is that for all his talent and fame, he knew struggle too, and not just growing up.

In addition to his enduring health problems, Helm faced very real financial hardships. In his honest and endlessly entertaining biography This Wheel’s On Fire, Helm told vivid stories about his life and music, like the time he and the other members of The Band got rousted by local cops for eating at a black barbecue joint with the legendary Sonny Boy Williamson.

Helm also also talked frankly about sometimes ruthless world of the record business. Here’s his explanation of the way that business matters contributed to The Band’s musical decline.

''When The Band came out we were surprised by some of the songwriting credits. In those days we didn’t realize that song publishing–more than touring or selling records–was the secret source of the real money in the music business.

We’re talking long term. We didn’t know enough to ask or demand song credits or anything like that. Back then we’d get a copy of the album when it came out and that’s when we’d learn who’d got the credit for which song. True story….

When the album [The Band] came out, I discovered I was credited with writing half of “Jemima Surrender” and that was it. Richard was a co-writer on three songs. Rick and Garth went uncredited. Robbie Robertson was credited on all 12 songs.

Someone had pencil-whipped us. It was an old tactic: divide and conquer.

After that, the level of the group’s collaboration declined and our creative process was severely disrupted. There was confusion. It’s important to recognize Robertson’s role as a catalyst and writer. But I blame Albert Grossman for letting him or giving him or making him take too much credit for the band’s work…

I went on to express [to Robbie] my belief in creating music with input from everyone and reminded him that all the hot ideas from basic song concepts to the mixing and sequencing of our record, were not always exclusively his.

I complained that he and Albert had been making important business decisions without consulting the rest of us. And that far too much cash was coming down in his and Albert’s corner. Our publishing split was far from fair, I told him, and had to be fixed.

I told him that he and Albert ought to try and write some music without us because they couldn’t possibly find the songs unless we were all searching together. I cautioned that most so-called business moves had f@#$ed up a lot of great bands and killed off whatever music was left in them. I told Robbie that The Band was supposed to be partners.

Since we were teenagers, we banded against everything and anyone that got in our way. Nothing else–pride, friends, even money–mattered to the rest of us as much as the band did. Even our families had taken second place when the need arose.

I said “Robbie, a band has to stick together, protect each other support and encourage each other and grow the music the way a farmer grows his crops.”

Robbie basically told me not to worry because the rumors were true: Albert was going to build a state-of-the-art recording studio in Bearsviille and wanted us to be partners in it with him. So any imbalance in song royalties would work out a hundred fold within the grand scheme of things. We would always be a band of brothers with our own place. No more nights in some company’s sterile studio…All we needed to do was play our music and follow our hearts.

Well, it never quite worked out that way. We stayed in the divide and conquer mode, a process that no one ever seems to be able to stop to this day.''

Those decades-old conflicts continued to haunt Helm, compounded by the loss of his friends and colleagues, and a tragic fire that cost him not only his possessions but drove him into bankruptcy. The Midnight Ramble concert series and recent recording projects were his eloquent and defiant response to hard times.

By sharing his hardships so publicly, Helm seemed to be sending a message to aspiring artists: make great music, but make sure you cover your a$$, and get a fair shake in the end.

http://www.forbes.com/sit...bble-life/

Reply #23 posted 04/20/12 6:19pm

wavesofbliss

bless him.

that's 5 already this year. who on earth will be next?

d.corneilius

whitney

dick clark

levon helm

mike wallace - not a muso but still....

im gettin a little freakd

Reply #24 posted 04/21/12 4:10pm

Ace

Identity said:

The Levon Helm Band performing at Austin City ...

The Hard-Won Lessons of Levon Helm's Life in the Record Business

April 20, 2012

I think one of the reasons for the tremendous, and appropriate, outpouring of affection for the late Levon Helm is that for all his talent and fame, he knew struggle too, and not just growing up.

In addition to his enduring health problems, Helm faced very real financial hardships. In his honest and endlessly entertaining biography This Wheel’s On Fire, Helm told vivid stories about his life and music, like the time he and the other members of The Band got rousted by local cops for eating at a black barbecue joint with the legendary Sonny Boy Williamson.

Helm also also talked frankly about sometimes ruthless world of the record business. Here’s his explanation of the way that business matters contributed to The Band’s musical decline.

''When The Band came out we were surprised by some of the songwriting credits. In those days we didn’t realize that song publishing–more than touring or selling records–was the secret source of the real money in the music business.

We’re talking long term. We didn’t know enough to ask or demand song credits or anything like that. Back then we’d get a copy of the album when it came out and that’s when we’d learn who’d got the credit for which song. True story….

When the album [The Band] came out, I discovered I was credited with writing half of “Jemima Surrender” and that was it. Richard was a co-writer on three songs. Rick and Garth went uncredited. Robbie Robertson was credited on all 12 songs.

Someone had pencil-whipped us. It was an old tactic: divide and conquer.

After that, the level of the group’s collaboration declined and our creative process was severely disrupted. There was confusion. It’s important to recognize Robertson’s role as a catalyst and writer. But I blame Albert Grossman for letting him or giving him or making him take too much credit for the band’s work…

I went on to express [to Robbie] my belief in creating music with input from everyone and reminded him that all the hot ideas from basic song concepts to the mixing and sequencing of our record, were not always exclusively his.

I complained that he and Albert had been making important business decisions without consulting the rest of us. And that far too much cash was coming down in his and Albert’s corner. Our publishing split was far from fair, I told him, and had to be fixed.

I told him that he and Albert ought to try and write some music without us because they couldn’t possibly find the songs unless we were all searching together. I cautioned that most so-called business moves had f@#$ed up a lot of great bands and killed off whatever music was left in them. I told Robbie that The Band was supposed to be partners.

Since we were teenagers, we banded against everything and anyone that got in our way. Nothing else–pride, friends, even money–mattered to the rest of us as much as the band did. Even our families had taken second place when the need arose.

I said “Robbie, a band has to stick together, protect each other support and encourage each other and grow the music the way a farmer grows his crops.”

Robbie basically told me not to worry because the rumors were true: Albert was going to build a state-of-the-art recording studio in Bearsviille and wanted us to be partners in it with him. So any imbalance in song royalties would work out a hundred fold within the grand scheme of things. We would always be a band of brothers with our own place. No more nights in some company’s sterile studio…All we needed to do was play our music and follow our hearts.

Well, it never quite worked out that way. We stayed in the divide and conquer mode, a process that no one ever seems to be able to stop to this day.''

Those decades-old conflicts continued to haunt Helm, compounded by the loss of his friends and colleagues, and a tragic fire that cost him not only his possessions but drove him into bankruptcy. The Midnight Ramble concert series and recent recording projects were his eloquent and defiant response to hard times.

By sharing his hardships so publicly, Helm seemed to be sending a message to aspiring artists: make great music, but make sure you cover your a$$, and get a fair shake in the end.

http://www.forbes.com/sit...bble-life/

As Robertson's daughter pointed out, Levon's solo works consisted entirely of cover versions. Doesn't speak much for him as a songwriter, does it?

I would think that the reason songwriters ended up with the lion's share of the royalties in the music business, is that coming up with appealing songs is the most important (and most difficult) part of selling records, concert tickets and merchandise.

In reality, Helm deprived himself of additional income by boycotting Band hall of fame inductions. If he would've shown and reconciled with Robertson, chances are they would've done some reunion projects that would've benefitted all.

Did he really think that holding onto bitterness was eventually going to convince RR to cut him in on songwriting royalties?

In the end, this stand did him zero good and I would bet dollars to donuts he "gave forgiveness (he'd) been denying" on his deathbed.

Helm was a charismatic, talented musician, but his vendetta against Roberston was sorely misguided, IMHO.

twocents

"I love to while away the hours while other people do their meanwhiles..." - Andy Warhol
Reply #25 posted 04/22/12 6:23am

Identity

Levon Helm: Joe Henry Remembers 'A Deacon Who Spoke Our Gospel'

April 2012

Link

Musician, songwriter and producer Joe Henry has overseen recordings by some of America’s most celebrated folk, rock, blues and jazz musicians, including Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, Allen Toussaint, Solomon Burke, John Doe, Bettye Lavette, Rodney Crowell and Mose Allison. He named his son Levon after Levon Helm, the Band’s drummer and singer who died Thursday after a long battle with throat cancer.

Henry wrote this reflection, titled "Gone/Not Gone: Levon Helm in Motion":


This past Tuesday afternoon, many of us began to receive and share word that Levon Helm was in the final stages of his long and heroic battle with cancer.

By that evening, Levon was not yet gone, but neither was he fully among the living. As we understood from his family, he was hovering at the doorway between this world and the next ... still taking the air of mortals in shallow and halting breaths, but with his eyes rolled back against the drawn curtain of his times. And we hovered with him.

Yet already in that moment, for many of us sadly absorbing the falling shoe of this news and preparing for the other to drop, he had assumed the flickering posture of memory; of those who had danced alive in our high beams, throwing shadows that moved like ancient black rivers; of those who have pointed the way forward from so far behind us that they shall forever, henceforth, stand ahead on the pathway like an omen of what is still to come; of those disappeared into omnipresence, like word into deed, fear into mercy and grace.

Levon entered my life when I was so young as to have had no notion that my gate needed a guard; thus, he waltzed right in while I was completely vulnerable to his raucous and ranging alchemy, and he changed me. Like children pulled into ministerial service when still in single digits, I looked unquestioningly upon Levon Helm as my church elder ... a deacon who spoke our gospel; who swung- and sung-out time in glorious illumination of its wild and elastic poetry.

In the same way that his great friend and sometimes-boss Bob Dylan connected the dots between Jimmy Reed, Arthur Rimbaud and Muhammad Ali, so Levon drew the second line that had Howlin’ Wolf, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Marvin Gaye and Hank Williams all dancing out in front of the same New Orleans funeral parade. (They all walked liked Bo Diddley and didn’t need no crutch.) He brought soul and an open heart to the darkest corners of rock music -- in a troubled era he helped shape and define -- and a rural humility to the grandest stages.

As I awaited word of the inevitable -- while we all waited -- I found there was nothing I could do but listen. And when I did, I was moved; was moving ... leaning, as implied, from past tense into present action; loosing my mind to what my body already knew, to the instinctive sway of my knees and shoulders in the face of unease; and I was reminded how much of our true intelligence resides in our physical frames’ southern hemisphere.

Yes, all I could do was listen and move, and it is what we will all do today. But then, that is all Levon Helm ever asked of any of us.

Reply #26 posted 04/22/12 6:50am

Identity

Ace said:

Helm was a charismatic, talented musician, but his vendetta against Roberston was sorely misguided, IMHO.

I agree with Robertson that Helm's indignation at him was rooted in ongoing financial hardships and health problems. Robertson has said that he encouraged songwriting within the group, but his ex-mates weren't interested and didn't have the same creative spirit.

Reply #27 posted 04/22/12 9:47am

laurarichardson

Ace said:

Identity said:

The Levon Helm Band performing at Austin City ...

The Hard-Won Lessons of Levon Helm's Life in the Record Business

April 20, 2012

I think one of the reasons for the tremendous, and appropriate, outpouring of affection for the late Levon Helm is that for all his talent and fame, he knew struggle too, and not just growing up.

In addition to his enduring health problems, Helm faced very real financial hardships. In his honest and endlessly entertaining biography This Wheel’s On Fire, Helm told vivid stories about his life and music, like the time he and the other members of The Band got rousted by local cops for eating at a black barbecue joint with the legendary Sonny Boy Williamson.

Helm also also talked frankly about sometimes ruthless world of the record business. Here’s his explanation of the way that business matters contributed to The Band’s musical decline.

Those decades-old conflicts continued to haunt Helm, compounded by the loss of his friends and colleagues, and a tragic fire that cost him not only his possessions but drove him into bankruptcy. The Midnight Ramble concert series and recent recording projects were his eloquent and defiant response to hard times.

By sharing his hardships so publicly, Helm seemed to be sending a message to aspiring artists: make great music, but make sure you cover your a$$, and get a fair shake in the end.

http://www.forbes.com/sit...bble-life/

As Robertson's daughter pointed out, Levon's solo works consisted entirely of cover versions. Doesn't speak much for him as a songwriter, does it?

I would think that the reason songwriters ended up with the lion's share of the royalties in the music business, is that coming up with appealing songs is the most important (and most difficult) part of selling records, concert tickets and merchandise.

In reality, Helm deprived himself of additional income by boycotting Band hall of fame inductions. If he would've shown and reconciled with Robertson, chances are they would've done some reunion projects that would've benefitted all.

Did he really think that holding onto bitterness was eventually going to convince RR to cut him in on songwriting royalties?

In the end, this stand did him zero good and I would bet dollars to donuts he "gave forgiveness (he'd) been denying" on his deathbed.

Helm was a charismatic, talented musician, but his vendetta against Roberston was sorely misguided, IMHO.

twocents

And you would not have vendetta against someone who you belived stole credit from you??

I wonder when we begin to live in a world were it is okay to be a "Sucker"

Reply #28 posted 04/22/12 10:16am

Identity

Except there's no evidence in his post-Band career of Levon ever having penned songs himself. I believe Robertson's account of life with The Band, that Robertson gave writing credit to some of the guys when ideas were being exchanged during the process of finishing certain songs.

Reply #29 posted 04/23/12 10:43am

NDRU

Identity said:

Except there's no evidence in his post-Band career of Levon ever having penned songs himself. I believe Robertson's account of life with The Band, that Robertson gave writing credit to some of the guys when ideas were being exchanged during the process of finishing certain songs.

I guess there may have been some questions about the source of the song materials, though.

Something like The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down may have been written with his help, even if Robbie wrote the actual song. Considering it's written from the perspective of a southern man, and R.R. is from Canada, he definitely got help somewhere.

So maybe Robbie feels he wrote the song, but Levon felt he guided Robbie through the subject. I could see where this might cause an argument.

Reply #30 posted 04/24/12 6:57am

Identity

Levon Helm: An Appreciation
April 20 2012, 1:00 PM ET
by Richard Gehr

Singing drummer Levon Helm, who died April 19 at age 71, enjoyed one of the more glorious second acts in American music.

As heartbeat and frequent lead vocalist in the Band, the son of an Arkansas cotton farmer (and sole Southerner in a group whose sound was fundamentally rooted in the region) laid the foundation for all subsequent "Americana" groups.

Diagnosed with cancer in the '90s, Helm fought back, and in 2005 began to invite guest musicians and fans into his barn studio for cozy Midnight Ramble events that became Mecca for roots-music aficionados and helped the proprietor pay his all-American medical bills.

THE FIVE MOST IMPORTANT TRACKS


1. The Band – "The Weight" (1968)
This Music From Big Pink afterthought would become one of songwriter Robbie Robertson's most covered tunes. Although Richard Manuel was singing nearly all of the group's material at the time, Helm stepped forward to drawl the first three verses of this surreal Old Testament saga of a traveler who, while making his way to Nazareth, Pennsylvania (home of Martin Guitars), is besieged by a motley assortment of archetypal figures asking for favors.

2. The Band – "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" (1969)


Virgil Caine was Helm's name on this pounding Civil War allegory about a Confederate survivor of a Union attack on Virginia's railroads. In a voice overcome with grief, rebellion, and resolve all at once, Helm movingly evoked the contradictory passions behind America's cresting counterculture. His military drum rolls emphasized a nation still at war with itself a century after the richly detailed events recounted in this highlight from the Band's eponymous second album.

3. The Band – "Up on Cripple Creek" (1969)


Opening with a funky shuffle the Meters might have envied (and that Gang Starr sampled forStep in the Arena’s "Beyond Comprehension"), the other "afterthought" of the Band's second album turned out to be the group's first and only Top 30 single.

Helm is charmingly roguish as a hard-drinking mountain man visiting his mistress Bessie in Louisiana. The honey can't help but drip when he sings: "There's one thing in the whole wide world, I sure would like to see / That's when that little love of mine dips her doughnut in my tea."

4. The Band – "When I Paint My Masterpiece" (1971)


The best song about life on the road ever writ? Bob Dylan evoked the homesickness of countless itinerants in this Technicolor road movie compressed into a four-minute tune. "Someday everything is gonna sound like a rap-so-dee," sings Helm in a paean to homesickness inspired by F. Scott Fitzgerald's Tender Is the Night. Accompanied by Garth Hudson's French accordion, Helm's redneck yawp makes allusions to "a purdy little girl from Greece" all the more touching.

5. The Band – "Ophelia" (1978)


Indebted more to Minnie Pearl than to Hamlet, Robbie Robertson's Dixieland paean to a gal on the run first appeared on the Band's last great studio album, the Louisiana-flavored Northern Lights – Southern Cross. Three years later, Levon knocked it out of the park with rollicking horn accompaniment during The Last Waltz.

THE FIVE BEST DEEP CUTS


1. Levon Helm – "Lucrecia" (1982)


A certain stank often imbues the atmosphere when Levon sings about women. And the lady of the evening who stars in this funky tune by frequent Aerosmith content supplier Richard "Richie" Supa is especially ripe. The song begins with the singer — "so eager and in need of affection" — pulling up to the "Pair-ee-dice Hotel" under the advisement of a stranger. By the time he leaves, “Lucrecia,” a distant cousin of Ophelia, perhaps, has left him feeling "weak in the knees after the ragin' commotion."

2. The Band – "Don't Ya Tell Henry" (1995)


The Band took a busman's holiday from recording Moondog Matinee to play the gigantic Watkins Glen festival in 1973. Levon delivered one of their set's strongest performances with this version of Dylan's inscrutable barnyard ditty in which animals and humans alike try to hide the fact from Henry — whoever he is — that "Apple's got your fly." Helm sounds like he knows, though, which is reason enough to hear him out.

3. Levon Helm and the Crowmatix – "Rag Mama Rag" (2001)


Helm rocks out with some Woodstock locals on another Band tune he claims wasn't appreciated until after it was in the can. Levon and pals capture the laid-back yet prickly essence of Southern culture in this rollicking portrait of a man pitching inebriated woo to a woman who's up and left him once again. He recalls the gold ol’ days when it was just "you and me and the telephone, our destiny was quite well-known."

4. Levon Helm – "The Mountain" (2007)


On Dirt Farmer, his first studio album in a decade, Helm addressed the national malaise by returning to his roots with a terrific acoustic album. Who knew that Levon would evolve into one of the country's finest pure country singers? This Steve Earle gem about the horrors of strip mining turns out to be the perfect vehicle for Helm's rich blend of nostalgia and regret.

5. Levon Helm – "Tennessee Jed" (2009)



It's somehow fitting that this final studio album, Electric Dirt, opens with a track that combines Dylan's joking and surreal imagery with Robbie Robertson's deft portraiture. The now-elderly Helm inhabits the hapless Jed with as much regional aplomb as he does any of Robertson's characters, only this time it's Helm's own band blowing behind him. A fitting send-off indeed.

FIVE SONGS THAT COULDN'T EXIST WITHOUT HIM


1. Rolling Stones – "No Expectations" (1968)


One history of '60s music sees things moving along nicely in a heady, futuristic, psychedelic direction until the Band brought everything to a screeching, check-yourself stop with Music From Big Pink. Take the Stones, who followed up the weird and ambitious Their Satanic Majesties Request with Beggars Banquet and this dusty country blues.

2. The Beatles – "Get Back" (1969)


Ringo Starr, rock's other great beat-chasing drummer, sounds a whole lot like Levon on this watershed single produced by Phil Spector. Its character-driven verses about a guy named Jojo, who leaves his home in Tucson, Arizona, and Loretta Martin, a woman who is really a man, are as close to a Band classic as anyone else would ever record.

3. Elton John – "Levon" (1971)


Elton and songwriting partner Bernie Taupin wrote this whooping, driving tune to honor the drummer, and damn what a tribute. It sketches the life story of a "good man" who is born, raises a family, and dies — accompanied by banging piano and some passionately sawing strings. Decades later, Sir Elton would middle-name his son Levon, too.

4. Uncle Tupelo – "Looking for a Way Out" (1991)


As harmonizers, Jay Farrar, Jeff Tweedy, and Levon-esque drummer Mike Heidorn were the '90s equivalent of Helm, Richard Manuel, and Rick Danko. The Tupelo trio, of course, evolved into Son Volt and Wilco, but their entwined voices on this slacker anthem — "There was a time / That time is gone" — are imbued with the Band’s timeless sense of longing and quest for redemption.

5. The Hold Steady – "The Swish" (2004)


According to lead guitarist Tad Kubler: "Me and [frontman] Craig [Finn] were just sitting around watching The Last Waltz when Craig said, 'Dude, why aren’t there any bands like this anymore? Let’s do this from now on.'" Robbie Robertson and Richard Manuel are name-checked in this dissolute and surreal rocker.

[Edited 4/26/12 10:09am]

Reply #31 posted 04/26/12 6:25pm

laurarichardson

Identity said:

Except there's no evidence in his post-Band career of Levon ever having penned songs himself. I believe Robertson's account of life with The Band, that Robertson gave writing credit to some of the guys when ideas were being exchanged during the process of finishing certain songs.

Could it be because Robbie stole them all.

Reply #32 posted 04/27/12 6:42am

Identity

Fans Remember Levon Helm at His Woodstock Home
April 27, 2012

Link

Crowds of fans paid tribute to the late Levon Helm Thursday at a public memorial at his home in Woodstock, NY.

The Poughkeepsie Journal reports that fans were playing Helm's music in the parking lot of the Woodstock Playhouse while they waited for yellow school buses to shuttle them to the home studio of the former drummer and singer for The Band, where his casket was surrounded by his drum kit and a piano.

Meanwhile Ulster County, NY flags were flown at half staff in recognition of the impact the drummer had on local tourism with the series of Midnight Ramble concerts he hosted. "Levon Helm’s contribution to community, county and our nation was inspiring," Ulster County Executive Mike Hein said in a statement to the paper. "Not only was Levon Helm an incredible musician with world-wide recognition, but his contributions to his local community will have a lasting impact."

The member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was famous for performing his Saturday night Midnight Ramble concerts in his barn. Ron Cavallaro told the Journal he had attended more than 40 shows there and drove from Rhode Island for the memorial. "This is my religion," Cavallaro said.

Following a private funeral on Friday, Helm -- who died last week after a long battle with throat cancer -- will be buried in the Woodstock Cemetery next to Rick Danko, vocalist and bassist for The Band who passed away in 1999.


Reply #33 posted 04/27/12 2:09pm

NDRU

\

Identity said:

3. Elton John – "Levon" (1971)


Elton and songwriting partner Bernie Taupin wrote this whooping, driving tune to honor the drummer, and damn what a tribute. It sketches the life story of a "good man" who is born, raises a family, and dies — accompanied by banging piano and some passionately sawing strings. Decades later, Sir Elton would middle-name his son Levon, too.

Elton's early stuff was really Band influenced. But being Elton, it's super catchy, as well.

Reply #34 posted 05/03/12 1:21pm

Identity

On May 2nd, the Boss paid a heartfelt tribute to Levon by covering The Band's "The Weight".

URL: http://prince.org/msg/8/379718

Date printed: Fri 24th Oct 2014 2:31am PDT