When I pulled in to Nazareth…

This afternoon, the world lost one of the finest drummers and singers ever to take the stage, as Levon Helm passed away after a battle with throat cancer. My earliest recollection of a song, is “Up on Cripple Creek”, and my all-time favorite song is “The Weight”.  Both are everlasting signatures of Levon’s time with The Band.   I’ve been singing and playing “The Weight” to Joe since he was at least two years old.  So, he too has been influenced by Levon in some way.  I’ve even joked, well-sort of, that if we were to have another boy, his name should be Levon.

I recently met a man who grew up with Levon near Helena, Arkansas.  When we met I said, ‘man, you sure sound alot like Levon Helm from The Band’.  He laughed and described throwing rocks at the water tower with his brother and Levon when he was a kid.   He said that Levon was a genuinely good man, and would come back home every once in a while.  He also said that his name was pronounced “luh-vawn” but when he got famous people called him “lee-von”.

I’m more a fan of Levon’s early work with the Band, than the Dylan and post-Band periods.  His singing towards the time period of the Last Waltz is about as good as it gets.  I don’t think he was the primary songwriter with The Band, but he was certainly the voice of it (whether he liked it or not).  His inflection was right on, every time, depending on the mood of the song.   Last year, I watched the Last Waltz (in it’s entirety for the first time, if you can believe it!) with one of my best friends, and rekindled my interest in The Band’s body of work.  To me there is no finer live musical performance than the following rendition of “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down“.  It is Levon and the Band at their very finest.

Rest in peace, Levon, and thank you for the memories and music.  You have enriched my world, and the world in general, in a way that is hard to quantify…


  1. Hayden says:

    That live version of “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down“ from The Last Waltz will always be my favorite. Levon’s delivery on it is so sad and heartfelt. And oh, so perfect.

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