Saturday, April 21, 2012

Levon of Arkansas

Just one more, honor of Levon Helm. Levon was the only American member of The Band and that’s really nothing to denote I reckon. But he was from Arkansas and to me that makes some difference. Do you know anyone from Arkansas? There’s an unpretentious nature…an air of humility (leave Bill Clinton out of this) that seems to host an Arkansas accent. I have good friends from and a few still in Arkansas and even though my research sample size is small, I stand by my bias.

It’s different…just enough…from the Texas twang. It’s nothing like that south Louisiana marbles-in-your mouth—cultural bouillabaissed obtuse tongue. Or the IQ attenuating “y’all aint from ‘round here are ya?” treacle of the Carolinas’ (the elegant Charleston lowcountry South Carolina accent being an exception).
 I saw briefly last night before the drugs kicked in, a scene from one of those television shows where they trace the ancestors of a celebrity. It was Oklahoma’s own Reba McEntire and she was in England, standing in a 17th century church graveyard, pondering the interment spot of her seventh great grandfather and his life in Cheshire. A rather staid and stoic English historian was standing beside her and the contrast was, well…American. Reba’s fiery red hair seemed to be the only color amidst the sooty stone Gothic backdrop for her contrived self-reflection. And then she spoke. Let me just say that the Okie accent and Reba energy doesn’t do for a Cheshire graveyard what Levon of Arkansas did for The Band.
What the flip does this have to do with Levon Helm and maybe, if ADG will ever get to it, The Band? Be patient. I know what you are thinking—this is just another one of ADG’s maudlin-mawkish flounderings…shrouded in some kind of regional accent themed wallow. Nope. But I do admit to meandering from time to time. I think that this one American—this Arkansan—Levon Helm, did more than anyone to make valid the eclectically gritty, unpretentious and mixed genre nature of The Band—not that Canadians can’t be gritty and granular. And Levon says that he never really considered himself “a singer.” Are you kidding me? Whose voice do you mostly hear on all of  The Band signature songs?
Have a brief visit with Levon courtesy of the video clip below. Maybe you’ll sense some of the same things about Levon Helm that I have. And just in case you don’t watch the video, here’s a couple of keepers for you…

“Nothing’s a guarantee. It’s the old one day at a time. And that’s the way it’s supposed to be I guess.”

“What’s it like to sing on an album with your daughter?”

“…I wanted to get well enough to do that…”

Cancer, bankruptcy and two Grammys are part of his last decade’s oeuvre but I still intuit a can’t be faked level of gratitude, humility and sincerity in Levon. Levon of Arkansas. Levon—the roux from which The Band was made.
And Levon Helm didn’t drape himself in decorative scarfs.

Onward. ADG II of Old Town. Linguist in a scarf.


Anonymous said...

Enough of this.

oldominion said...

Have not followed up on the fact that I, too, am a drummer who, during my professional years, cribbed more from Levon and Dave Mattacks than I'd care to admit. I have my 1970 Rogers kit set up in the basement even now; I still own the ROgers snare I was given for my birthday in August of 19 and 73. Levon Helm made the Band. He was the Band. Even as a youngster I saw through Robbie Robertson as something of a fake, Danko and Hudson as showmen, Manuel as the Band's tragic core; most of the Band's lyrics promise something that is never delivered in a way that allowed me to think RR was too stoned when he wrote 'em.

Would still love to know why Levon didn't go on the road with BD for the electric tour...

Anyhow, Levon was among the best, will be missed by this non-singing drummer.

Kerry O'Gorman said...

Yeah it seems like most people thought of Robbie Robertson as the lead but he;s the one who screwed the rest of the band out of their royalties. Poor Rick Danko just worked himself to death cause he never had any money.
Levons accent was one that you just wanted to hear more of.
Bless his Arkansasian heart!

Golf Tango Hotel said...

An incredible talent....and he will be missed but long remembered.

ADG said...

Old...I got a Slingerland snare drum when I was ten years old. I got my kit the next year...bass--two mounted tom toms..ONE cheap ass "Zilco" cymbal...Zildjian's lower end porduct...and a high hat...ditto the Zilcos for that. The next year I got a floor tom for Christmas. I thought they were gone forever. They've been my best childhood buddy's basement.

Kerry O'...I just started following your blog.


old said...

Levon Helm was an American Treasure. A gifted musician who persevered against the ravages of a horrible illness, he is an inspiration to us all.

Thought you would celebrate him byb giving a listen to The Band and Friends stirring 1976 rendition of "I Shall Be Released"

Godspeed, Mr. Levon. Requiescat in Pace

Old School

TDC said...

Let me preface this by saying I was born in 1983. I remember at one point during my early college days I proclaimed, to some dumb frat boy with an equally dumb ankle tattoo, The Band as my all-time favorite. I think his reponse was something like, "What band?" Thankfully I did find another suitable frat boy (who is now my hubby) and we bonded over the likes of The Band and Dire Straits (another personal fave). Good music is like a good accent--it's a bond that can bring strangers together. And it's pretty damn hard to fake.

ADG said...

From Old...

I messed up with the link. Perhaps you would be so kind as to cut and past it into my previous posting. Old School Prep