Yesterday I posted a blog post about Music From Big Pink by The Band. As many know the front cover of that album was painted by Bob Dylan. Bob Dylan hung out with The Band in 1967 while he recovered from his motorcycle accident in Woodstock, New York.
Uncut celebrates the 45th anniversary of The Band’s landmark début album.The album was a brilliant mix of gospel, spirituals, roadhouse blues, Southern soul and early rock’n’roll, out of which they created a magical new strain of American music.
We mourn the loss of drummer, singer and multi-instrumentalist Levon Helm. He waged a courageous fight against cancer.
I reflect upon when I first heard Levon Helm’s voice with The Band. It was on the vinyl recording, Music From Big Pink. I borrowed that record from my wife Rosemary when were first dating in the spring of 1969. We loved the song, “The Weight“. I wasn’t aware Levon Helm was the lead vocalist at the time. I thought of The Band collectively and that they were recording with Bob Dylan in Woodstock, NY.
In his autobiography This Wheel’s on Fire, Levon Helm explains that the people mentioned in the song were based on real people The Band knew. The “Miss Anna Lee” mentioned in the lyric is Helm’s longtime friend Anna Lee Amsden.
Bob Dylan wrote of Levon Helm: “He was my bosom buddy friend to the end, one of the last true great spirits of my or any other generation. This is just so sad to talk about. I still can remember the first day I met him and the last day I saw him. We go back pretty far and had been through some trials together. I’m going to miss him, as I’m sure a whole lot of others will too.”
Rosemary and I saw Levon Helm perform live in concert twice. The first time he was part of the all-star orchestra ensemble for the 100 year Salute to the Blues at Radio City Music Hall. The concert was filmed for DVD and titled, Lightning In A Bottle.
The last time we saw Levon Helm play was at the Gathering of the Vibes in Bridgeport, Ct in 2009. He appeared with the Levon Helm Band. He was advised by his doctor not to sing that night so Bob Weir and others stepped up to that task for him.
Last night at The Lumineers concert in Fairfield at Stage One, we all sang in loving memory, “The Weight” as the last song of the night. It was fitting and just to send our voices up into the sky as the last song of the night. We became his voice adding to his legacy, as we celebrated this great musician who showed us so much heart.
We are planning to visit the Adirondacks in upstate New York at the end of this month. When I think of music created in upstate New York my thoughts often turn to the artistic community of Woodstock, NY.
We’ve been influenced strongly over the decades by Woodstock, NY. The Band, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, and Todd Rundgrenare just a few of the many musicians associated with this vibrant art community. Its time we pay Woodstock, NY a visit.