When we got the news today that Levon Helm had died, I went straight to Big Pink.
As the drummer and one of the lead singers for The Band, Helm helped drive a roots rock revival that's still going strong today. In a year when the charts were full of psychedelic rockers and funky R&B, the band blended country with rock to create something very different. Music From Big Pink, their debut album, was a slice of Americana that didn't storm the charts, but quietly crept into our consciousness until, today, it's regarded as one of the best and most important rock albums of all time.
Levon Helm performs with The Band (Wikimedia Commons/ David Gans)
Levon Helm only sang lead on one song off Music From Big Pink – "The Weight." But when the follow-up album, The Band, was released, his vocals took a more prominent role. That's Helm singing the funky and fun "Up on Cripple Creek."
The Band also included the song that some consider Helm's finest hour. When he performs "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" on the concert film The Last Waltz, you'll be in good company if you get a few shivers running down your spine. The performance is that good, and that effective.
Written by Linnea Crowther