Writing this post difficult for me. I am a man who loves music, and tends to hold musicians in an esteem that could easily be described as not completely healthy. Men such as myself with the aforementioned music affliction are bound to have our favorites, and for me Levon Helm is in the company of about a handful of other gentleman who’s music has affected me in such an impactful way.
That said, when I heard the sad news from Levon’s family I knew I had to write this post, and wanted to somehow, someway make it something more than the obligatory RIP Levon Helm, “Heart and Soul of The Band” blog post. I don’t know Levon Helm personally, and am not going to sit here and pretend that his passing is going to leave some sort of void in my life, I will leave that to the undoubtedly large number of friends and family that are truly devastated by his passing. My connection to Levon Helm was his music, and lucky for me that isn’t going anywhere.
The act that Levon’s name will forever be most associated with is of course The Band, a group who despite only having one American member, may very well be the best example of an “Americana” act that we have ever heard. The lone American member, no doubt responsible for The Band attaining the oft-mistaken distinction as “The Greatest American Band” was of course Levon Helm. The Band had the luxury of an embarrassment of riches when it comes to vocal talent, but Levon’s twangy, soulful, off-kilter voice stood front and center. While there has been a great deal of controversy over the years about who wrote what in The Band’s catalogue, Levon’s role as “Band Leader” seems uncontested. From the early days as the Honkeys, to the Hawks’ turn as Dylan’s electric backing band to his late career ramblin’ renaissance, Levon sat perched behind his drum kit leading the way.
From a musicianship standpoint, Levon Helm had it all – he was one of the most technically proficient drummers I have ever heard, his voice was so authentic you could pick it out from a mile away, and he was able to carve out a unique style and sound he could truly call his own. By all accounts, Levon Helm was every bit the man that he was a musician; making his passing that much more sad for those he held close. While the people who knew him well continue to mourn his loss, I will say a little prayer for the Helm family and drop the needle on some of my favorite records, courtesy of the man himself. Thanks for the memories Levon, ramble on my friend…..