Levon Helm at Life is Good 2011

Remembering The Music
Rest In Peace, Levon Helm

Photos by Kira Doucette
Words by Julie Stoller

Live from Life is good 2011
Prowse Farm - Canton, MA


A few words on Levon's passing from Life is Good's James Macdonald:

"In the winter, as I sat down with Bert and John Jacobs to discuss talent for that September’s Life is good Festival, there was one name that kept rising to the top of the “must have” list - Levon Helm. You consider booking certain acts for different reasons…some look forward, others reminisce, all hopefully inspire and others just land in a category called “legendary” – and Levon Helm was squarely in that space. Levon Helm was a product of a time in America that is long gone now…and was disappearing then..." [full open letter]

AN ALL STAR PERFORMANCE - The Band’s classic “Ophelia” got the rambunctious New Orleans brass band treatment, and they performed other old favorites such as “This Wheel’s On Fire” (written by Rick Danko and Bob Dylan, on Music from Big Pink, 1968), “Long Black Veil” (also on Big Pink, written by Danny Dill and Marijohn Wilkin), and “Tears of Rage” (written by Dylan and Richard Manual, which appeared on The Basement Tapes). These classics were joined by a satisfying collection of R&B, country, folk, and some piano-driven honky tonk blues, creating an atmosphere of joyous celebration.

For the last part of their show, Levon's Band were joined by member of the Boston Pops, with guest conductor Daniel Bernard Roumain, who briefly put down his baton to pick up a fiddle (oh excuse me, a violin; I suppose in this case it’s not polite to call it a fiddle…). If an extraordinary group of performers could sound even more extraordinary, then this was it. The sound was overflowing with richness, starting with an acoustic folk ballad, beautifully executed and sweetly sung with three-part harmony.

A survivor in every sense of the word, Helm battled throat cancer in the late 1990s and underwent radiation treatments, steering clear of any singing for several years. His voice miraculously returned and though rough and raspy now, he contributed a few solo verses, most notably during their brilliant finale of The Band’s “The Weight,” which sounded great and inspired wild cheering of appreciation.


Several performing shared the singing duties, including Ray LaMontagne, who was invited on stage for a handful of songs. His Joe Cocker-invoking vocals are genuine and deeply soulful, and he came back on a bit later for his own heartfelt, bluesy set, closing out a weekend of spectacular music in grand style.

Levon Helm Band
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