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Levon Helm's Last Waltz...
Levon Helm’s Last Waltz…
My American friends always find it funny because of my making a big deal from listening to music that is new to me, but is old to them - but I always tell them to bear with me and take into consideration my coming to America as a teenager… and the fact that I am Black… and recognize that there is music I have not heard and when my ears are tickled by these newly sounds, be it by happenstance or deliberate discovery… I get giddy. Case in auditory point, about four years ago, I accidentally came across a Martin Scorsese documentary movie, “The Last Waltz,” which featured the group, “The Band.” What stood out in “The Last Waltz,” even though replete with other great artists and songs, was the drummer and lead singer of “The Band,” Levon Helm… here was a man with a voice that was an amalgam of so many musical sounds: it was soulful, bluesy, country, and with a tinge of the Southern Gospel. It was even more impressive, especially for someone like me who does not play any instrument to witness Mr. Helm’s simultaneous singing and drumming… and we all know that the drummer is the heartbeat and foundation of every band.
Like my custom when discovering new music/artist, I went and engaged in in-depth research on “The Band,” but with my focus more on Mr. Helm. I even watched Mr. Helm on the Don Imus’ show, and though Mr. Helm was now seasoned in age, his raspy soulful voice still serenaded. I also learned that Mr. Helm had a bad break-up with Robbie Robertson, the leader of his group, “The Band,” over royalties and ownership of song rights. Among my favorite songs, where Mr. Helm sang lead were “Don’t Do It,” and “Ophelia.” Yesterday, when I learned of Mr. Helm’s death, a flood of memories came back like when I first heard his voice and it also reminded me of how deprived the younger generation is with all their processed music and being bereft of not being able to listen to artists that can perform live or write meaningful lyrics, at least in most cases.
It was good to know that on Saturday, that Mr. Helm and his former band-mate, Robbie Robertson, apparently made their peace, when the latter visited him on his death bed. Robbie was the lead guitarist and lyricist who contributed those gifts to “The Band” and one can see both, if he or she were to tune in to YouTube, jamming in splendid showmanship - one in voice and drumming and the other in guitar. In one of the songs, “Ophelia” where Mr. Helm sang lead, the words from a couplet goes, “The ghost is clear and “Why do the best things always disappears…” I can make a convincing case of someone great disappearing in Mr. Helm’s death… I hope that he is resting in Jesus’ peace.