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The old neighbourhood just ain't the same - Levon Helm R.I.P 1940-2012
Levon Helm, drummer and singer with The Band, died last week. Oisin Leech of The Lost Brothers and manager Frank Murray remember visiting the legend’s studio in Woodstock – and pay tribute to one of the greats of rock ’n’ roll.
Oisin Leech, 23 May 2012
On October 22 last year, myself, Paul Brainard and The Lost Brothers left Manhattan and drove north along the Major Deegan. Our destination Woodstock, our mission – to hear the great Levon Helm perform at his Midnight Ramble. Levon played drums, mandolin and sang like a bird for almost three hours. An incredible feat. We were having a blast. It was rock ’n’ roll stripped and pure. On song after song, Levon and his band hit the note.
After the show, we were invited back to meet Levon. While chatting in the kitchen he asked The Lost Brothers to return some day and play The Ramble with him. Last month I spoke with Barbara at his office and we agreed to come to Woodstock on October 6 this year and perform at the event. Alas, this is now a dream shattered. However, we will always have the memory of sitting in Levon’s barn and listening to a true, genuine master-musician perform with his red hot band, while he took us and shook us and brought us to places only a master magician can.
– Frank Murray, Lost Brothers manager.
GETTING TO KNOW LEVON
Like so many other Levon Helm fans around the world, I was deeply saddened to hear the news of his passing.
When I was 16, busking on Grafton St., I used to take my earnings down to the Secret Book and Record Store on Wicklow St. and trawl through the shelves. On one such day I came across a very ragged copy of a book entitled This Wheel’s On Fire. Levon Helm’s autobiography changed my life. It is surely one of the best rock ‘n’ roll books ever written. It led me to explore the music of The Band, Bob Dylan, Sonny Boy Williamson, Muddy Waters and more, taking me on an extraordinary journey that continues to this day.
Levon Helm was born May 26, 1940, in Turkey Scratch, Arkansas. At the age of 13 he started singing around local talent competitions with his sister Linda, for whom he once made a washtub bass violin!
Still a young man, he travelled to Canada to help his then band leader Ronnie Hawkins gather the finest musicians around to form his backing band, The Hawks. The musicians they hired included Robbie Robertston, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson. Having parted company with Ronnie, The Hawks in turn would go on to become one of the greatest ensembles of all time and would soon become known simply as: The Band.