Mark Lavon “Levon” Helm of The Band, a seminal figure in American music, passed away April 19, 2012, after a long bout with cancer. Helm was known for his deeply soulful, country-accented voice, and creative drumming style highlighted on many of the Band’s recordings, such as “The Weight”, “Up on Cripple Creek”, “Ophelia” and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”. In 1994, Helm was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of The Band. In 2007, Levon’s comeback album “Dirt Farmer” was awarded a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Album in February 2008, and in November of that year, Rolling Stone magazine ranked him #91 in the list of The 100 Greatest Singers of All Time.
Electric Dirt, Levon’s 2009 follow-up to Dirt Farmer, won the first ever Grammy Award for Best Americana Album, an inaugural category in 2010. In 2011, his live album Ramble at the Ryman won the Grammy in the same category. Levon Helm was diagnosed with throat cancer in the 1990’s. He continued to play but his performance career in the 2000s revolved mainly around the Midnight Ramble at his home and studio in Woodstock, New York.
Featuring Helm and a variety of musical guests, the Rambles allowed Helm to raise money for his medical bills and to resume performing after a nearly career-ending bout with cancer. Initially, following treatments, and later the successful removal of the tumor, Helm’s vocal cords were damaged, and signature voice, was not the same. He continued playing drums at the Rambles and invited guest vocalists to sing, but Helm’s singing voice grew stronger. On January 10, 2004, he sang again of his Ramble Sessions. In 2007, during production of Dirt Farmer, Helm estimated that his singing voice was 80% recovered.
The Levon Helm Band consisted of Levon’s daughter, guitarist Amy Helm, along with Larry Campbell, Teresa Williams, Jim Weider (the Band’s last guitarist), Jimmy Vivino, Mike Merritt, Brian Mitchell, Erik Lawrence, Steven Bernstein, Howard Johnson (tuba player in the horn section who played on The Band’s “Rock of Ages” and “The Last Waltz” live albums), Byron Isaacs, and blues harmonica player Little Sammy Davis.
Artists who performed at the Rambles which Helm hosted at his home in Woodstock, VT include Helm’s former bandmate Garth Hudson, as well as Elvis Costello, Emmylou Harris, Dr. John, Chris Robinson, Allen Toussaint, Donald Fagen of Steely Dan, Jon Herington of Steely Dan, Jimmy Vivino of “Late Night with Conan O’Brien‘s” The Max Weinberg 7, Sean Costello, The Muddy Waters Tribute Band, Pinetop Perkins, Hubert Sumlin, Carolyn Wonderland, Kris Kristofferson, Gillian Welch, David Rawlings, Justin Townes Earle, Bow Thayer, Luther “Guitar Junior” Johnson, Rickie Lee Jones, Kate Taylor, Ollabelle, The Holmes Brothers, Catherine Russell, Norah Jones, Elvis Perkins in Dearland, Phil Lesh (along with his sons Grahame and Brian), Hot Tuna (although Jorma Kaukonen introduced the group as “The Secret Squirrels”), Michael Angelo D’Arrigo with various members of the Sistine Chapel, Johnny Johnson, Ithalia, David Bromberg and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. The Rambles were open to the public.
An influential artist and hero to many, Levon inspired a number of artists to pay tribute to him.
At their May 2, 2012 concert at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band performed “The Weight” as a tribute to Helm.Springsteen called Helm “one of the greatest, greatest voices in country, rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll … staggering … while playing the drums. Both his voice and his drumming were so incredibly personal. He had a feel on the drums that comes out of certain place in the past and you can’t replicate it.” Springsteen also said it was one of the songs that he had drummer Max Weinberg audition with prior to joining the band.
Tomorrow, the REV TOR BAND will perform a tribute to LEVON HELM & THE BAND SUNDAY MAY 27 at Strangecreek Campout in Greenfield, MA. (12 Noon, Main Stage). Along with the regular Rev Tor Band line up which includes Dan Broad on bass, Benny “Fingers” Kohn will join on piano to mirror the classic Band line up of Guitar, Bass, Drums Organ & Piano.
On Wednesday May 30th, Rev Tor is joined by a host of Berkshire artists for a full performance of The Last Waltz at the Colonial Theatre. Proceeds will benefit MOMENTS HOUSE ~ Working to provide a warm, homelike community center for Berkshire County residents impacted with a cancer diagnosis. www.momentshouse.org
Tor’s repetoire, in addition to orginals, includes covers of tunes by The Band, performed with ease and skill. They bring the music to life. It is fitting for the area’s premiere jam band to take it a step further and stage a tribute to one of their greatest influences, in a spirit of love and healing. The event features David Grover, Bernice Lewis, Bobby Sweet and other great performers. (see complete lineup below).
THE LAST WALTZ
A Tribute to Levon Helm & The Band
Performed Live By
THE REV TOR BAND & FRIENDS
DAVID GROVER, GINA COLEMAN, STEVE IDE, BOBBY SWEET, BERNICE LEWIS, TONY THOMAS, JIM BENSON, DIVINITRESS, TERRY HALL, KALI BABA, BEN KOHN, TODD MACK, JEFF MARTELL, BETH MATUREVICH, REBECCA MATTSON, SARAH MCNAIR, CHRIS MERENDA, DANIEL OSMAN, JASON WEBSTER.
WEDNESDAY MAY 30
7:30pm (doors open at 7:00pm) All Ages
LIVE AT THE COLONIAL THEATRE
111 South Street, Pittsfield, MA
TICKETS ON SALE NOW
Available at The Colonial Theater Box Office – (413) 997-4444
Or on-line at http://www.berkshiretheatregroup.org/
ALSO AVAILABLE AT:
Toonerville Trolley CDs & Records
131 Water St
The Earth Shoppe
655 Cheshire Rd
Sponsored in part by
QUEST EDUCATIONAL SERVICES
QUEST FOR COLLEGE
PRASHANTI PRESS LLC
RELAY FOR LIFE