Take a load off…
Levon Helm, legendary drummer for The Band and numerous solo projects, Passed away today.
I played through some of my Levon favorites and realized how much his career meant to music history. Levon played with the best. He was at Woodstock with the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Santana. He was often the beat behind Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison and Neil Young. He played blues, he played bluegrass, he played rock n’ roll. He drummed, he plucked the mandolin, and he had one of the most distinctive singing voices period.
But his legacy didn’t end with the “Woodstock” era.
Throughout the seventies he pressed on with The Band, and continued pursuing solo endeavors in the post-Last Waltz period. Even in the past decade, after a battle in the late-90’s with throat cancer, Levon not only continued to play, but took it upon himself to foster a new generation of musical talent. Whether it was the intimate Rambles that he hosted at his home and welcomed young favorites, or the numerous festivals that he played modest afternoon sets, he pushed on for the love of the music. He opted for the informal; playing hootenanny or revue style gigs to give each musician the glory. He was always the one behind the kit keeping the beat with a smile on his face. It was never about Levon Helm, but always about the music.
He was a member of one of the most influential bands in history.
With the release of “Music From Big Pink” ‘The Band’ stopped psychedelia in it’s tracks. Eric Clapton himself said after hearing the record, he just felt silly with his paisley scarf and immediately quit the band Cream.
And it didn’t stop with Clapton. Zeppelin, The Grateful Dead, CSN&Y all site The Band as a major turning point in music. All of them quit noodling and left some of the self-indulgence for a straight ahead no-nonsense approach. They all even dressed like The Band with jeans, jackets and maybe an old hat or two.
And what about the “most influential band” of all time, The Beatles? Ever notice that the frilly puffy shirts of the summer of love went away to old 3-button tee shirts and beat up jackets by 1968’s ‘White Album’?
‘Big Pink’ was released in the summer of ’68. The Beatles played their new single, ‘Hey Jude’ live (vocally) on The David Frost show in late August. During McCartney’s ad lib screaming during the ‘Na-Na’s’ you can hear him scream “Take a load off Fanny, take a load off me, yeah!”
That’s instant influence.
Rest in peace, Levon. You were authentic. One of the greats.