Thursday, April 19, 2012

Goodbye Levon

Rock legend Levon Helm has finally passed.  There will be alot of blogosphere tributes over the next little while, and if you read them you will hear him sing on the admittedly awesome Last Waltz versions of The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down and The Weight many, many times.  However, Levon shares the stage with very few 60s/70s rock stars vets--Robert Plant, and  maybe Neil Young (although his newer material is pretty weak)--in that he did some of his best work within the past decade.  Here's a great song from 2007's Dirt Farmer

Levon fought throat cancer before this last bout of lung cancer finally took him home, and the recovery from it turned his voice into something even more special than the gravelly Southern thing it had always been.  From Levon Helm to Levon Helm crossed with Papa Simpson .  You can get this from listening to his live cover of the Grateful Dead's Tennesee Jed on Letterman:

Here's another of my late favorites:

The lyrics to it are haunting (although it looks like Steve Earle wrote them):

I was young on this mountain but now I am old
And I knew every holler, every cool swimmin' hole
Til a one night I lay down and I woke up to find
That my childhood was over I went back down in the mine

There's a hole in this mountain it's dark and it's deep
And God only knows all the secrets that it keeps
There's a chill in the air only miners can feel
There're ghosts in the tunnels that the company sealed

So goodbye, Levon, you were an inspiration to a bunch of middle-aged white guys that are getting older much faster than seems reasonable and would still like to think its possible to remain vital and creative a decade or two hence. Or at least you inspired this middle-aged white guy.

1 comment:

Just the facts, please said...

Thanks for that, especially the last one, which reminds me of an ancient memory:

When I was much too young to be doing such stuff, I used to occasionally stay in the Toronto apartment of actress Beverly D'Angelo - back when she wasn't an actress at all, but a singer (she had an aborted stint with The Hawks - I think that's why she was in Toronto). Later, of course, she appeared with Levon in Coal Miner's Daughter. She was a good singer and loved that music from the outset.