Levon Helm… Rare Talent is missed
By: Ed Ulibarri
It is with sadness that I report the passing of Mr. Levon Helm, the drummer and singer in The Band. He was 71. It is rare when the world hears something new and fresh from the music business, and that is what The Band bestowed upon us so many years ago with hits like “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” ”The Weight” and “Up on Cripple Creek,”. Some call it genius.
The Band was also known as Bob Dylan’s back up band for a time when Mr. Dylan evolved from folk music to his rock persona. This was a most interesting part of Mr. Dylan’s career as he turned his loyal fans into haters in one night back in 1965. They simply couldn’t understand why Bob would throw his music career away playing bad rock n roll. And The Band was there to help Bob move into another sphere.
Bob Dylan said on his website Thursday: “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.”
Another iconic event in music history was the recording of “Last Waltz”.” They bid farewell to live shows with the famous concert in 1976. Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan were among the stars that played the show in San Francisco, filmed by Martin Scorsese for a movie of the same name, released in 1978.
The “Last Waltz” is regarded by many as the greatest of concert films, but it also helped lead to a bitter split between and his best friend, Robbie Robertson. Helm believed the movie was structured to make Robertson the leader of the band. And it was said that there was a dispute over royalties.
Helm and his band mates – Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, Robbie Robertson and Richard Manuel – returned to the roots of American music in the late 1960s as other bands got into the psychedelic genre. The group’s 1968 debut, “Music From Big Pink,” and its follow-up, “The Band,” are some of the best LP’s that were ever released.
Helm was a successful actor, with acclaimed roles in “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” ”The Right Stuff” and other films. And lest we forget his emotional performance in “Last Waltz” singing “Dixie Down”.
Original members of The Band were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.
There is no doubt that Mr. Helm’s music will live on for generations. And that is a thought that I’m sure Levon will take with him to the next level where he will continue to sing and play music.