In the early fall of 2007, I traveled to Woodstock, N.Y., to interview Levon Helm, the legendary Band drummer and vocalist who passed away last Thursday at the age of 71, following a long fight with cancer.
Helm was first diagnosed with the disease in 1996, and for a period he lost the ability to sing. But by the time we sat down to chat at his home-cum-studio complex, Helm had recovered much of his voice and was preparing to put out an album, Dirt Farmer, his first proper solo release in 25 years.
Helm was painfully thin but welcoming, full of life, and, in truth, not slow to vent his anger about perceived past grievances. While petting his two beloved dogs Lucy and Muddy, the drummer talked about his new collection and his illness. He then proceeded to wander down memory lane. The encounter remains one of my favorite interviews.
It isn’t every day you talk with someone who got inspired to become a musician after seeing Elvis in concert, who got booed while playing with Bob Dylan, who was documented by Martin Scorsese and didn’t care for the result, and who got to battle the Grim Reaper and lived to tell the tale. Now that Helm has finally lost that fight, it seems appropriate to recount just why his passing is such a sad event for so many people. READ FULL STORY