Levon Helm, 1940-2012

When I was a junior in high school, somebody gave me a videotape of The Last Waltz, Martin Scorsese's 1978 documentary about The Band. It was revelatory—not only hadn't I ever heard The Band before, it was the first time I heard many of the other artists who appeared in the film, like Van Morrison and the Staples Singers. It changed the way I looked at music forever. If you haven't seen it, you should. As soon as you can. Seriously.

Today, Levon Helm died at age 71. He was The Band's drummer and lead singer, a soulful musician and by all accounts a real nice guy. Here's a clip from The Last Waltz of Helm doing "Ophelia":

And here's a clip of Helm doing the same song just this February. Stricken with cancer and obviously frail, Helm could still pick up the sticks and deliver the goods. Rest in peace.

Watch Quick Hits: Levon Helm Performs "Ophelia" on PBS. See more from Sound Tracks.


Here, here! The Band played at my undergraduate college my senior year, and I still kick myself for not going. I picked up the album *The Band* later that summer, and ever since have worshipped the ground they walked on. TBS, I'm a white southerner, and have certain cultural predilections as a result, but no one brought Greil Marcus's Old Weird America more into the mainstream than those guys, and Levon Helm in particular. I was privileged to be in the audience at his first Ramble at the Ryman here in Nashville, and it was a magical evening. Even though life had clearly taken its toll on him, it was a thrill to be in his presence. May his reward be commensurate with what he gave us.

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