We only heard how bad off he was yesterday, and now comes this:
Levon Helm came to fame in a rootsy rock group that featured three extraordinary voices. But you could always tell which was his: It was the sound of the lusty wildcat, the stern Southern preacher, the depleted Confederate soldier, the dirt farmer at the end of his day.
Helm, 71, who as a drummer backed a pair of legendary musicians and then became a star himself with The Band and as a solo artist, died today from throat cancer at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
“Thank you, fans and music lovers, who have made his life so filled with joy and celebration,” said his daughter, Amy, and wife, Sandy, in a statement released Tuesday before he died. “He has loved nothing more than to play, to fill the room up with music, lay down the back beat and make the people dance! He did it every time he took the stage.”…
You know, that first graf is some fine writing, even if it does appear in USA Today. That’s a very solid description of his voice.
Reading that statement from his daughter reminds me of something that has stuck in my memory from a piece about The Band in TIME magazine in 1970 — the cover piece that first interested me in them, and caused me to go out and buy one of their albums. I forget which of the guys was quoted, but he said that while it was all the rage in those days to be alienated from one’s parents, the Band members were not — they all stayed close to their families and were comfortable with them.
That impressed me. Of course now with this generation, “family” has gone from being just about parents and siblings to being about spouses, children and grandchildren. But the importance of the relationships, the power of the continuity of life, continues with the timelessness of The Band’s songs, which seemed so deeply rooted in a time other than the ’60s and ’70s.