Levon Helm, the long-standing drummer and superb tenor vocalist for the Band, died today in Woodstock, NY after a long struggle with cancer. Having grown up in Turkey Scratch, Arkansas, the talented singer and musician brought a lot of talent to one of the most popular rock groups of the 60s and 70’s. After The Band broke up, Helm went on to record with other Band members (excluding Robbie Robertson) and eventually doing his own solo recordings. The drummer-singer is known for some of the most riveting vocal leads in recording history, including the lead voice in “The Weight”, a R&R Classic.
Helm’s Feud With Robertson
Martin Scorcese filmed the last concert of the Band (it’s called the Last Waltz) and unknowingly produced a Rock & Roll classic. Though not very apparent to most film viewers, Robertson and Helm were feuding before, during and after the live performance. Their differences became quite obvious after the break-up of the Band. Since that time the two have had limited contact with each other. The most common form of communication between the two musicians indicates a general dislike of each other. One point of contention was the break-up of The Band. Robertson was for, Helm was against. Another component of their feud was Helm’s claim that he did not receive complete credit for his songwriting contributions. Nonetheless, Robbie Robertson had this to say about Helm recently, as it was widely known that his death was eminent, “We all need to send out love and prayers to my Band mate Levon Helm.”
After The Band
After the break-up of the Band both Robertson and Helm have had distinguished solo recording careers. In contrast other members of the group have remained on the sidelines. While Robertson went Native, Helms chose to continuing exploring his rural Arkansas roots. By coincidence Helm was the only American member of The Band. Special praise should be given to Levon for his literary biography of the Band, entitled “This Wheel’s On Fire.” It is Helm’s tribute to rock & roll history and by most accounts the book is a stimulating and forthright account of the rise of a five-piece, musical group known worldwide, simply as “The Band”.