A star-studded benefit concert to be held October 3, 2012, at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J., will celebrate Levon Helm, while supporting family efforts to keep his Midnight Ramble concerts going.
Guest artists at the Love for Levon show will include Joe Walsh, My Morning Jacket, Bruce Hornsby, John Haitt, Warren Haynes, Lucinda Williams, Ray LaMontagne, Patty Griffin, Mavis Staples, Marc Cohn, Eric Church and the Levon Helm Band. Musical directors for the event will be Larry Campbell and Don Was.
The Grammy-winning former voice of the Band died earlier this year at 71 after a lengthy bout with cancer. Find out more here: http://loveforlevon.com/.
Helm, singer on signature Band tracks like “The Weight,” “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” and “Up On Cripple Creek,” was diagnosed in the late 1990s with throat cancer. He survived, but radiation treatments damaged his vocal cords, forcing Helm to spend years regaining his tenor voice. Into the 2000s, Helm would release a trio of well-received albums, and was playing host to regular house concerts at his Ulster County barn in upstate New York that he called Midnight Rambles. The cancer suddenly returned earlier this year.
Ramble at the Ryman earned Helm a third consecutive Grammy on Feb. 12, 2012 even as Helm began missing performances during this final fight. He’d also won for 2007’s Dirt Farmer and 2009’s Electric Dirt, claiming the first two Americana album awards ever given.
“We are deeply moved that so many musicians and friends of Levon’s are coming together to celebrate his life and his music, and to help us keep his musical spirit and vision alive in the Midnight Rambles,” said Sandy and Amy Helm, Levon’s wife and daughter. “We want to continue to honor his legacy by creating a musical landmark at the Barn, one that inspires and celebrates Americana music and its heritage.”
Rolling Stone magazine ranked Helm at No. 91 in its list of the 100 greatest singers of all time.
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Here’s a look back at our recent thoughts on Levon Helm. Click through the titles for complete reviews …
GIMME FIVE: CELEBRATING LEVON HELM, CO-FOUNDER AND VOICE OF THE BAND: The loamy voiced, rail-jumping rhythmic center point of the Band, Helm re-emerged in the last decade after an initial diagnosis to reclaim his mantle as yearning storyteller and timeless soul singer. Three straight Grammy awards followed, starting in 2008. Unfortunately, Helm’s third-act triumphs in the studio were matched pace for pace by his illness. Helm, 71, is now said to be in the final stages of his cancer battle. The Arkansas native leaves behind, however, a series of lasting musical statements. Those Grammys helped to underscore Helm’s importance, within the Band and within the broader landscape of American roots music – but it is here, within the songs, that it becomes manifest. Even after all of that, Helm’s signature style remained. His playing was an involving mixture of rhythm and emotion – someone once said he was the only drummer who can make you cry – while his singing remained a wonder of ribald bewilderment, old-time religion and shotgun shack-rattling joy.
LEVON HELM – RAMBLE AT THE RYMAN (2011): We’re reminded again here that Levon Helm was the loamy voiced, rail-jumping rhythmic center point of the Band, its yearning storyteller and gritty soul. Their records were drawn from continuity, bringing in dizzyingly diverse, age-old influences and performed in a chorus as if by brothers. That has always made a treasure hunt out of selecting any individual triumph on their old records. Not here, as this Ramble becomes a showcase for Helm. It’s also an important reminder: The Band’s principal songwriting credits may have gone to Robbie Robertson, but they were then — and are here, again — often completely inhabited by Helm’s carnal Arkansas drawl.
LEVON HELM – ELECTRIC DIRT (2009): Nothing drove old Levon Helm down. Not the messy dissolution of his group, The Band; the perhaps inevitable subsequent financial ruin; a terrifying bout with throat cancer; a pair of shatteringly tragic deaths within his inner circle; or a yawning quarter century span between solo records that made him all but obscure in modern musical circles. There is, of course, a dark and deep sense of loss — this candid accounting of, and quiet mourning for, the old times, the old ways, the old friends that fans of some of The Band’s best-known Helm-sung tunes (“The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” “The Weight,” and “Up on Cripple Creek”) will recognize. But Helm sings with the bone-deep confidence of someone who has eyeballed our biggest fears and lived to tell the tale.
LEVON HELM – DIRT FARMER (2007): His earthy, Arkansas drawl epitomized the roots-minded rock combo The Band just as much as Robbie Robertson’s evocative compositions on American folklore. And now he’s back with a rare studio album that makes The Band sound like a sleek, electronica dance music. There’s not a trace of a plugged-in instrument anywhere and amongst songs by Steve Earle and J.B. Lenoir are songs that aren’t even copyrighted anymore. But Helm’s steady drumming and blessedly rural warble remains. That should be plenty good enough for any fan of The Band.