Remembering Levon Helm’s Greatest Performance

RIP Levon Helm. I’ll be watching my Blu-Ray of this amazing concert film again tonight. So many memorable moments throughout the film…and just about all of them come with Helm on vocals and banging away on drums. Robbie Robertson may have been the domineering personlity offstage, but Levon Helm was the dominant vocalist and energy on stage. Truly an amazing talent…and truly an amazing concert! I was only nine years old then, and although I knew a couple of their biggest songs I didn’t really discover The Band until long after they had broken up…I only wish I could’ve been there in person!


Like many younger fans of Levon Helm, my first real exposure to his music was from the film The Last Waltz, Martin Scorsese’s documentary about The Band’s farewell concert, which took place in San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom on Thanksgiving Day 1976. In the film’s opening sequence, The Band’s guitarist Robbie Robertson explains to Scorsese, “Winterland was the first place The Band played as The Band. Some friends showed up and helped us take it home.”

The Band’s “friends,” music legends such as Ronnie Hawkins, Joni Mitchell, Neil Diamond, Neil Young, Van Morrison and of course Bob Dylan, comprised arguably the greatest lineup of musical talent ever assembled in one place. But the heart of the film—what made it practically required viewing when I was in college only eight years ago—were the performances by The Band themselves. And at the center, literally and metaphorically, of the stage was Levon Helm, who…

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