Levon Helm Joins The Band in the Sky

Drummer from The Band Calls Time

Levon Helm lost his battle with cancer yesterday and joined that great band in the sky. Not just his former band mates in the legendary 70’s group The Band, but all those othe

r great musicians who have died this year and before.

This report from Forbes may not be the greatest tribute to Levon this week, but it does give some background information for those that are too young or unfamiliar with Levon and his former band mates.

A Tribute to Levon Helm’s Departed Band Mates Rick Danko and Richard Manuel

A friend sent me a Facebook message about the passing of Levon Helm, that he decided not to post on my wall for fear of it being misinterpreted.

This takes absolutely nothing away from the greatness of Levon Helm, who deserves all the tributes he’s getting, but I don’t remember Richard Manuel or Rick Danko getting nearly this level of attention when they died.

My friend is right, of course. Manuel, who died in 1986, and Danko, who passed away in 1999, didn’t receive tributes commensurate with their talent and influence, and no one would be quicker to acknowledge this than Levon.

Most rock and roll bands consist of a leader, maybe two, and a bunch of supporting role players. Not The Band. Helm was one of three lead vocalists, along with Danko and Manuel, and they would not only trade parts over the course of a record, but often in the middle of a song. In the studio, Helm would often slip in on mandolin while Manuel took over drumming duties, and Danko often played guitar as well as bass.

(As for the surviving  members of The Band, Robbie Robertson was the group’s primary lyricist and guitar player, while the classically trained Garth Hudson was a multi-instrumentalist specializing in keyboards, accordion, as well as the occasional tasty sax part. Producer John Simon also made significant musical contributions and was considered the sixth member of The Band.)…More at A Tribute to Levon Helm’s Departed Band Mates, Rick Danko and Richard Manuel

If you have not seen the film The Last Waltz, you really should. It is one of the best concert films of all time. Directed by Martin Scorsese, it features a host of guest performances from many great legends of rock music, including Eric Clapton, Neil Diamond, Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, Ronnie Hawkins, Dr. John, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Ringo Starr, Muddy Waters, Ronnie Wood and Neil Young to name but a few. It also serves as a great tribute to Levon Helm, as well as Rick Danko and Richard Manuel.

Elton John‘s song Levon also serves as a great tribute to Mr Helm. Apparently it was Helm’s name that inspired Bernie Taupin and Elton John to write this song. The Band was their favorite group at the time. Some of the the lyrics are really apt.

Nearly 20 years after the original Woodstock Festival, the biggest names in rock were brought back to recapture the mood and sound of that historic event. The sights and sounds are led by psychedelic tour guide Dr. Timothy Leary.

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