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Musicians React To Levon Helm’s Passing

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Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images

Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images

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In the days leading up to Levon Helm’s passing (and since the news of his passing spread earlier today), the music world has taken to Twitter to pay tribute to the drummer, singer and mandolin player from The Band. Others posted statements exceeding 140 characters on their own websites and Facebook pages.

Members of groups as diverse as Guns N Roses, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rage Against The Machine and Maroon 5 are among those who tweeted about Helm:

The surviving members of The Doors, posted the following: “Levon Helm helped define the sound of the ’60s as a member of The Band, The Hawks, and as a solo artist, and heavily influenced the sound of what we now know as ‘Americana Music.’ Songs like ‘The Weight’ and ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down’ will forever remain classics of the rock and roll canon.
We extend our condolences to the fans and family of Levon Helm.”

Actress and activist Jane Fonda, who co-starred with Helm in the 1984 TV movie The Dollmaker, said via her website, “He was kind and deep and devoted to music, as a singer and playing not only drums, but harmonica, fiddle, mandolin, you name it. He has lived for a long time in Woodstock, New York, where he turned his barn/studio into a place where hundreds of people would come weekly to his ‘Midnight Ramble.’ I filmed my soon-to-be-released movie, Peace, Love And Misunderstanding there and had the chance to attend several of the Midnight Rambles. It was like being in church…All you have to do is rent The Last Waltz, the documentary that Martin Scorsese made of The Band’s last performance together, to be reminded what an astonishing drummer Levon was.”

In 1984, Max Weinberg interviewed Helm for his book The Big Beat:
Conversations with Rock’s Great Drummers
. Weinberg wrote “Levon plays the drums and sings with a conviction and emotional intensity that rings true. That he does both at the same time is remarkable… (Helm is) one of the rare breed of drummers that are able to set not only the beat but the scene of a song’s story as well. Perhaps this is what journalist Jon Carroll meant when he said that Levon is the only drummer who can make you cry.”

Helm’s most well known acting role was playing Loretta Lynn’s father in the Lynn biopic Coal Miner’s Daughter. Loretta Lynn posted “Levon Helm will always hold a special place in my heart. He was as great of an actor as a musician. For me watching him play the role of my daddy in Coal Miner’s Daughter is a memory I will always treasure.”

Helm’s relationship with his former Band-mate Robbie Robertson has often been rocky since the breakup of the group (Robertson never participated in any of their albums or tours after they reunited in the ’80s). Helm declined to attend The Band’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994 due to his disagreements with the guitarist. But Robertson visited Helm over the weekend in the hospital, and posted on his Facebook page: “I sat with Levon for a good while, and thought of the incredible and beautiful times we had together… Levon is one of the most extraordinary talented people I’ve ever known and very much like an older brother to me. I am so grateful I got to see him one last time and will miss him and love him forever.”

– Brian Ives, CBS Local


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