The almighty Levon Helm passed away four years ago today, so we’re paying tribute to the man, his voice, his drumming abilities, and his epic beard. Why? Basically, because The Band was excellent and Mr. Helm (recently voted the 21st best drummer of all time) had a remarkably unique set of skills (but not like Liam Neeson in the Taken films).
He’s renowned as the drummer and singer for The Band, but also proved himself to be a skilled actor and writer. Seriously, it’s disgusting one person should be so talented. It’s through The Band, however, that he’ll no doubt be best remembered, as well as his silky smooth voice and multi-tasking abilities.
Levon Helm: Drummer & Singer Extraordinaire
Watch any clip of The Band and what’s immediately surprising is the lead singer also appears to be the drummer. Levon Helm’s brain allowed him to double up, as you can see in the clip above, with complex drumming and reeling off lyrics.
This is bloody difficult, and the only other drummer who’s managed it with panache is the equally gifted Reni of The Stone Roses.
Unlike many of his rambunctious contemporaries, Helm was understated and humble, actively downplaying his abilities when pressed by journalists.
Compare this to the antics of Keith Moon, Ginger Baker, and John Bonham (and who said the English were polite sorts?), who combined created a catalogue of destruction behind them which could fill the Pacific ocean, and you can see why the others still steal the limelight.
Songwriter Robbie Robertson focused on writing songs about history rather than (as with contemporaries) LSD and hippy rights (even though they did play at Woodstock ’69). Thusly, with his laid-back drawling Southern American accent and nifty drumming chops, Mr. Helm and The Band carved out a mighty fine musical niche up until they disbanded in 1976.
The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down
Ending things up, we’ve got the legendary performance of The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down. Considered one of the best live performances by any human ever, Helm certainly gives it some welly in a song about the American Civil War – beautifully written by Robertson.
Levon Helm wasn’t the most spectacular drummer in history, but he was damn precise, passionate, and those jazzy chops are bloody well missed, we say. The added element of his singing certainly made him stand out, and with his genuine passion for music he was playing right up until shortly before he passed on. Much missed, man!