Words fell during the past weeks in remembrance and celebration for the life of Levon Helm.
Garnering admiration from the likes of President Bill Clinton and fellow musicians, concert tributes have also fired off from The Black Keys, John Fogerty, Bon Iver, Allman Brothers Band, Warren Haynes and Drive-By Truckers, where each have given their own renditions of songs like “The Weight” and other well-known titles.
When it comes to certain artists, there is an interconnectedness that follows within a community where you feel like you know the artist even though you’ve never had any contact with them at all.
This was the case with Helm.
It always felt like you were on a first name basis with him and his work – and that’s just how you referred to him.
After a text from a friend about his passing, I immediately forwarded it to family and one of my close musician friends. Simply stating, “Levon died,” there wasn’t much else left to say, as that was enough to resonate and spark emotions.
Before his death on April 19, he was scheduled to perform at the Ryman Auditorium on Sunday, May 6.
Prior to this date, a letter from his wife and daughters were sent to those on his mailing list and posted on his website, citing that his health and battle with cancer had took a turn for the worse.
When dates like the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival were canceled, it was a sure sign of things to come.
It was a case where you hope for the best, but no there is something more to the story.
I was scheduled to be in attendance for the Ryman show, along with my parents and brother.
I had the pleasure of seeing Levon twice before but was particularly looking forward to this show with my mother, a longtime fan of The Band, and my father, a drummer and singer himself.
Growing up, my mother would play The Band on the way to school at times, talking about seeing them live and Garth Hudson’s accomplishments and how he was her favorite of the group.
At that point, I was too young to completely understand what was going on with The Band, as I was more in a world of my own with groups like The Cranberries or Smashing Pumpkins.
But at an early age, I knew of Robbie Robertson, Garth Hudson, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel and Helm, and for that I’m now thankful.
I checked back into The Band in the formative music listening years when leaving high school and entering college, and then it just hit me at how magical this group’s history was and their place in it all.
After a few viewings of Martin Scorseses’s concert film “The Last Waltz,” The Band’s music never left me.
Helm’s mark on the music world is one that will be remembered in years to follow. He’s performed with legends, been part of a classic rock ‘n’ roll group, won Grammy awards and held many Midnight Rambles at his Woodstock home among other accomplishments.
But most of all, he’s been an inspiration to many.
In the letter, his family said ”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.”
And that’s how I remember Levon.