Levon Helm who passed away recently.
Levon Helm who passed away recently.
The legendary drummer, Levon Helm, passed away recently aged 71. The Lost Brothers, featuring Navan's Oisin Leech, were saddened at his death as they had met him last year and were due to play with him later in 2012.
Helm was born in Turkey Scratch, Arkansas, and as a very young man he travelled to Canada to help his then band leader Ronnie Hawkins gather the finest musicians around to form The Hawks. The musicians they gathered included Robbie Robertston, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel, and Garth Hudson. The Hawks in turn would be become one of the greatest bands of all time and would soon become known simply as, The Band.
Levon witnessed firsthand the very beginnings of rock and roll while he toured with The Hawks, often sharing stages with acts like Dion and the Belmonts and Bo Diddley. Levon and the band soon parted ways with Ronnie Hawkins and Levon himself became the leader as they immersed themselves in Motown and the blues of Sonny Boy Williamson. Their aim was to become the greatest band in the world and that is exactly what they did.
In 1965, The Band were recruited to back Bob Dylan on one of his early electric tours, which started at Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, New York. The Band, in their original quintet line up, recorded many fine albums until their last concert in 1975 which is documented in the Martin Scorsese film The Last Waltz where they were joined onstage by many great musicians including Neil Young and Bob Dylan. The fruits of the Band's recording career include classic albums such as 'Music from Big Pink' (1968) and 'The Band' (1969).
The Lost Brothers manager Frank Murray remembers Levon Helm and a trip to meet him in Woodstock 2011: "On 22nd October last year myself, Paul Brainard and The Lost Brothers left Manhattan and drove North along the Major Deegan, our destination Woodstock, our mission to hear the great Levon Helm perform at his Midnight Ramble. Levon played drums, mandolin and sang like a bird for almost three hours.
"An incredible feat. We were having a blast, rock 'n' roll stripped and pure, song after song Levon and his band hit the note. After the show we were invited back to meet up with Levon and while chatting in the kitchen with him he invited The Lost Brothers to come back some day and play The Ramble with him. Last month I spoke with Barbara at his office and we agreed to come to Woodstock on 6th October this year and play The Ramble. Alas, this is now a dream shattered, but we will always have the memory of sitting in Levon's barn and listening to a true genuine master musician perform with his red hot band while he took us and shook us and brought us to places only a master magician can."
The Midnight Rambles were Helm's weekly concerts in his studio ranch in Woodstock, to which he invited friends from far and near to join him. These Rambles have now entered rock 'n' roll folklore. Oisin from the Lost Brothers remembers attending that Midnight Ramble last year.
"In October last year we had the great honour of seeing Levon perform and meeting him after the gig. It's very sad to hear of his passing and he will be missed by music fans the world over. Often you can hear Levon's song 'The Weight' being sung on a Sunday session in Birmingham's Pub so we won't forget him anytime soon. In fact, we'll never forget him. The Lost Brothers play Tara Rocks festival in August and we'll sing one of Levon's songs that night.
"He really was one of the greats. We're lucky to still have all the wonderful music he has left behind."
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