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19 April 2012

Sad day for music fans I'm kinda gutted tonight to hear that Levon Helm passed away today. This Onion AV Club article is a great tribute. I'd seen the news that he wasn't well, but I'm still shocked that he's gone already.[More:]I saw the thread at mefi, and commented, but kinda wanted to say something here, too.

When I saw him at Massey Hall, in Toronto, last year, I found the show a little lame. I mean, the band he had was talented as heck, but it felt like a show my mom would like, not one that I was super into. But, I was so pleased to finally be under the same roof as a guy that I've admired for years. And, as I watched and listened, I heard some great music.

The thing that struck me more than anything though, was just how absolutely happy he was. He was grinning ear to ear a LOT. And, every once in a while, someone in the band would play a cool little run, or something noteworthy would happen, and he would just BEAM. He also was very proud to share his stage with his daughter. It was singing with her that he was able to get his voice back after the throat cancer.

It was so wonderful to see a man who's been able to do this for years, lack any cynicism. He was joyful. What a lucky, lucky man.

He gave Robbie's songs a voice. He laid down an amazing beat. He played a mean mandolin, acted in a bunch of great movies, and was a really proud dad, and a widely renowned helluva guy (tm).

I'll miss ya Levon. Once again, I liked the world better with you walking it.
Somewhere, someplace, I have a quote of Levon's that I'd saved. It was from an interview he'd given after he'd beaten cancer the first time. I'm gonna dig it up, if I can, because it encapsulated a really graceful, and grateful, way to live one's life.
posted by richat 19 April | 19:22
Whew! Found it!

As I say, in the interview, they asked him a bit about how life's not been exactly a rock star time for him over the last while. He'd beaten cancer, sure, but medical bills had stacked up, and he was looking at starting to have to tour, perhaps, to make some dough to pay it back. He just grinned, and said:

"I'm so glad to have what little I've got; I ain't gonna knock it."

I respected the everloving shit out of that guy.
posted by richat 19 April | 19:30
I thought of you immediately.
posted by Eideteker 19 April | 19:47
So sad.

One thing that sucks about getting older - everybody starts dying. Not just old has-been celebrities that you don't have much connection to, the way it was when you were a kid, but people who you looked up to and were always there and always seemed to light the way to what was cool and worthwhile.

I dread a lot of these moments in the rest of my life.
posted by Miko 19 April | 21:00
I hear you, Miko. As I said on FB today, I sure hope someone's making sure Willie's taking his vitamins.
posted by richat 19 April | 21:22
I was really sad to hear this news. I thought he was great as Sissy Spacek's dad in Coal Miner's Daughter.
posted by Senyar 20 April | 04:58
This one really cut me deep, maybe because I associate The Band so much with my mom who's dying of cancer herself right now. I grew up listening to them and losing him feels like losing a family member.
posted by octothorpe 20 April | 07:08
Yeah, each death in The Band has made me sad. I think it's partially because from what I've read, they really were like brothers for a time. And, being a fan, along the way, they got to feel like guys I knew. I felt like I got their personalities, and their strengths and weaknesses. Probably the vanity of a fan, but man, apart from Robbie, I'd have loved to sit down for a drink with each of them. Truthfully, I'm not sure what Garth and I would have to talk about, but I'd still sit down with 'im!
posted by richat 20 April | 09:57
Jon and I had the great pleasure of seeing Levon and, as you say, his incredibly talented band, including his very pregnant daughter at the time, in a concert at Central Park last summer. What an amazing concert that was. Emmylou Harris co-headlined. It was like two full concerts in one. It started pouring in the middle of Levon's session, but we just stayed in the rain like a couple of hippies. We were soaked, but it was worth it. During the intermission/change over, at dusk, before Levon came on, there were these enormous dragonflies darting all around, after the mosquitoes, I imagine, but I associate dragonflies, which I first started noticing, real and as images on eveything from earrings to socks, with my birth mother, who passed away in 1997. As the concert started again and Levon took the stage, I asked this older man there with his family if he had seen the dragonflies and he hadn't. Strange, since they were so large, I don't know how you'd miss them. (I wasn't hallucinating; Jon had seen them, too.)

Friday, home from work and circling to find a parking space, the radio was playing Up from Cripple Creek, and I was happily singing along when, in the middle, it dawned on me, and I actually said aloud, Oh, did he die? Just the day before, I had also heard he was battling a recurrence of his cancer, so I was surprised he'd passed so soon. When the song ended, the DJ confirmed my fear.

We always meant to go to the Midnight Ramble, but it was a bit pricey for us at the time, but still thrilled by last summer's concert. And grateful for the legacy.
posted by Pips 21 April | 12:28
That is a great story and sounds like one of those rare , really magical concert experiences.

I always hoped to get to a Ramble too.
posted by Miko 21 April | 23:17
Name 10 Tunes! || A delicate tea question.