We’re still shaken up over here at the loss of Levon Helm. As writers, we’re easing our pain by putting our thoughts and memories about The Band drummer and Midnight Ramble host down “on paper.” Last night HT founder Slade Sohmer eulogized Helm for our Love For Levon series which continues now with essays from three of our contributors.
Levon Helm had one of the most comforting voices in classic American music. Alongside John Lennon, Levon’s old buddy Bob Dylan, and Aretha Franklin, his raspy, genuine, soul-filled voice is easily recognized and instantly soothing. As a child, I would listen to The Band’s Greatest Hits album over and over, belting out The Weight until I got the solo version of the “and, and, and…” chorus to sound exactly like all five of them.
[All Photos by Chad Anderson]
In college, I wrote an entire paper breaking down why The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down was the best song ever written, and behind pretty much every reasoning stood The Band’s solid and strong drummer. I started to realize that Levon was at the core of all of my favorite songs, that he was the voice of this sound that defined music for me, and upon understanding just how influential this one artist had been on me, I had found my first truly favorite band.
Once I watched The Last Waltz, I was fully sucked into the past of The Band. There’s no YouTube clip of it, but my favorite scene is where Scorsese is talking to Levon and Robbie about their first time in New York City. The smile that comes across Levon’s face when he speaks about the whirlwind of Manhattan was the first thing I saw when I finally caught him live, and that joyful, innocent face will be burned in my memory for the rest of time. Rest in Peace, Levon. You were so deeply loved.
This was the last time I saw my musical hero, but this moment will live on in my heart forever.