Thursday, April 19, 2012

R.I.P. Levon Helm

As a drummer for The Band, one of the most important groups in American music history, Levon Helm occupied a unique place in the popular music canon. His drumming on tracks like "Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," has a plodding simplicity to it, but also an understated beauty. This is the tale for countless Helm drum tracks, to say nothing of his vocal abilities. When he stepped to the mic to sing on "The Weight" he hypnotized an entire generation and to this day its hard not to hear the song and stop dead in your tracks. The song is an astute summation of the American experience, four minutes of yearning and traveling down the open roads. Helm's drum fills on the track masterfully deliver "The Weight" of the song's title. Few bands meant more to the evolution of American rock music than The Band and Helm was the steady center that held it all together.

In the late 90s, Helm was diagnosed with throat cancer and for a time his wondrous voice became a whisper. He made a remarkable recovery however and was back to singing full-time on the albums Dirt Farmer and Electric Dirt, both of which won Grammys. Helm passed away at 1:30 pm, but not before being visited by The Band masterming Robbie Robertson a few days prior. Helm was 71 years old and is survived by his wife and daughter.

"I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to be Free"- Electric Dirt

"The Weight"

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