April 21, 2012

Levon Helm and The Band: a rock parable of fame, betrayal, and redemption: Levon Helm of The Band found an unlikely path back to fame after decades of disappointment. But by the end, the homespun singer from Turkey Scratch, Ark., had come full circle. (Mark Guarino, Staff writer / April 20, 2012, CS Monitor)

The phenomenon of the "Midnight Ramble," as Helm called the Saturday evening house parties, reflected Helm's unique downhome sensibilities. At one performance I attended while on assignment for a music magazine, his house on a pitch-dark wooded back road was marked by a balloon tied to a mailbox. There, the road opened to a large field for parking. Tables set up by town locals had cupcakes, cookies, juice, pasta salad, and other food. People mingled and talked while Helm's dog, Muddy, wandered around looking for ear scratches.

When it came time for the music, Helm emerged from a back room gleaming, shaking hands with the 100 people tucked around the room on folding chairs. Despite his age - and persistent throat troubles - he snapped at the drums with fierce strength while singing with emotive depth and tender inflections.

"It's certainly a miracle for me and a dream come true. I never thought I would sing and play like I used to be able to do. I thank God. Every song is a celebration for me," he said at the time.

World Cafe Remembers Levon Helm (World Cafe 1/18/08)

Levon Helm, an Americana legend and drummer for the '60s rock group The Band, died this week. Here, we remember Helm with an archived interview and performance from WXPN. [...]

Helm launched a solo career apart from The Band, releasing several albums. In the late '90s, he turned to blues with a new group, Levon Helm & The Barn Burners. In 2007, he released his first solo record in 25 years, the Grammy-winning Dirt Farmer.

The Band On Mountain Stage (LARRY GROCE, NPR: Mountain Stage)

As I listen to his vocals in "Rag, Mama, Rag," "Blind Willie McTell" and "The Weight" from the 1996 show, it's hard to imagine anyone else trying to sing those songs. Of course, everybody does try to sing "The Weight," but we all suffer by comparison. Levon's voice is for the ages. I can hear traces of Pops Staples and fellow Arkansan Ronnie Hawkins, influences from both sides of the big river that flowed near his home. Conway Twitty, like Levon, grew up in Helena, and Johnny Cash not far away in Kingsland. Powerful voices came out of that Arkansas dirt.

Posted by at April 21, 2012 6:30 AM

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