Home > Set Lists > On The Road Again. A Message For Levon Helm!

On The Road Again. A Message For Levon Helm!

Song of the open road... El Cheapo

Song of the open road... El Cheapo

Larry Campbell came to us at the Ranch last weekend with the sad news of what might be Levon Helm’s last battle this side of the great divide. I remember, I think it was sometime in 1968, I was staying at the Landmark Motel on Franklin in Los Angeles with the rest of the Airplane. We might have been recording… I don’t remember. What I do remember is that Eric Clapton had the room next to mine. Eric played a tape for me of Music From Big Pink and of course, like everyone else in the music loving world, I was knocked out.

Years later in the mid 80’s, I moved to Woodstock, N.Y. and somehow met Rick Danko and Levon Helm. After all those years of being a fan, in was an honor to be able to count them as friends. I toured Japan with them in the 80’s and wound up filming an instructional video for Happy Traum’s Homespun at Lee’s place.

Our paths would cross from time to time as we crossed and re-crossed America playing music and brushing off the dust of ten thousand motel rooms. That is what we touring musicians do… and Levon did it like he did everything… wheels up and throttle to the wall. Life dealt him his share of adversities and he took his lumps and kept on pickin’ for all of us. I got to hang with him a little more when I recorded my River Of Time project and then Hot Tuna’s Steady As She Goes. We would talk about music… a little, but what we really connected on in this part of our life… was family. To see him happy with his wife, his daughter and his grandson was to know that he was right where he needed to be. After all is said and done… it is the love of family that brings us home.

As I write this, I am on a bus from Ohio to Florida to play a festival. Were he not where he is today, he would either be on a bus himself with Larry Campbell and his friends, or home in Woodstock walking his dogs with the kid.

Levon helped create what has become the soundtrack to a large part of my life. He was always a friend and a comrade in arms. The span of his art has joined two centuries.

As you approach this final voyage Lee, may your journey beyond the stars be filled with light. You will always be in our hearts. Fair winds and following seas brother!

Home away from home

Home away from home

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  1. April 18th, 2012 at 10:53 | #1

    thank you for your words about Levon Helm, thanks for keep-making-great-music

  2. Tom K
    April 18th, 2012 at 11:15 | #2

    Well said Jorma! Levon is a true legend. My thoughts are with him.

  3. April 18th, 2012 at 11:35 | #3

    Well said Jorma. God bless Levon!

  4. Tom in St. Louis
    April 18th, 2012 at 11:36 | #4

    Thanks for the kind words about Levon. He’s one of a kind…the Wife and I were talking about him last night. He had an amazing career in music-in fact, it was more like three or four careers! There were the early days with the Hawks, their period backing up Dylan when they became the Band, followed by the incredible heyday of that group. Then, after surviving cancer and many other challenges, he started doing the Barn concerts and recording again. He became a mentor and father figure to many younger musicians in the “Americana” realm.
    Levon had so much to give, and he did so generously. We appreciate everything about him. Now it’s almost time for him to pass on to even bigger and better things…

  5. neil
    April 18th, 2012 at 12:17 | #5

    I had shareed my thoughts on Levon on your prior page before reading these…From those you have provided, it is re-assuring to know that who and what a man is can, indeed, be discerned by those who are only able and privileged to observe him from the manner in which he carries himself on the musical stage…as I said, a gentle man whose spirit, and love of music and family was there for all to see and no one ever left one of his shows without a smile on their face and a warm spot in their heart…

  6. Cyndy Consentino
    April 18th, 2012 at 12:23 | #6

    Dear Jorma,
    Beautiful words for a beautiful man!
    I had the opportunity to meet Levon in Woodstock a few years ago
    A real gentleman, and a wonderful musician!
    Prayers for Lee and his family.
    Enjoy Wanee!

  7. Bob Kelly
    April 18th, 2012 at 12:44 | #7

    Jorma.. words from the heart.. so well said, our prayers and meditations go out to Levon and his family..The Band and Levons music are such a huge part of our lives here..He truly is an American classic.. fare the well..go in peace

  8. Eric
    April 18th, 2012 at 13:01 | #8

    Thank you for this beautiful message. It brought tears to my eyes.

  9. Kirby Dietz
    April 18th, 2012 at 13:02 | #9

    Thank you so much far sharing some beautiful stories and insight to your wonderful friendship with Levon. He is very blessed to have friends like you and Larry and countless others who love him deeply and that’s what the ride is all about. We are all blessed to share love in this world. We’re going to miss him and will keep him, his family and friends in thoughts and prayers.

  10. Bob Cataliotti
    April 18th, 2012 at 13:15 | #10

    Thanks Jorma for those beautiful words about a beautiful guy. I’ve been at many of the shows where both Levon’s and your buses have stopped over the past forty years. Last year, I had the chance to go to one of his Rambles with Mavis Staples in Woodstock; it’s memory I’ll always cherish. Levon made an indelible mark on American music, and I’m deeply indebted to him for enhancing my time on the planet.

  11. Lowell F. Wolf
    April 18th, 2012 at 13:54 | #11

    W-FUV, Fordham University radio just mentioned your heartfelt tribute to Helm. As they recomended I read it and agree.

  12. Rob
    April 18th, 2012 at 14:12 | #12

    Yes indeed Jorma, Lee is a wonderful musician yet a far more wonderful human being. Much of his musical work is the sound track to America, even during the most difficult times in his life his compassion for others is & was front and center. When his time does come which will be much too soon he’d be the first to say he lived a full life with the love of soo many in his heart. I am privlidged and extreamly fortunate to say we are friends.

  13. Jim T.
    April 18th, 2012 at 14:19 | #13

    Here, here … nice story and commentary, have always been a fan …. The Last Waltz is a timeless testiment of the greatness of Levon and
    The Band!

  14. Jeff Montwicki
    April 18th, 2012 at 16:50 | #14

    Thank you for writing this, Jorma. It is honest and from the heart as is everything you do. Prayers and good vibes to our Brother Lee now in his final battle.

  15. JD Smith
    April 18th, 2012 at 17:00 | #15

    Yorma,
    BEAUTIFUL!! THANK YOU!!!!!

  16. Joe Moore
    April 18th, 2012 at 17:03 | #16

    Jorma , as usual , you said it so well ! His Music and yours are part of the life soundtrack for so many of us ! My thoughts are with Lee and his loved ones .

  17. Craig K
    April 18th, 2012 at 17:09 | #17

    amen

  18. K Wilson
    April 18th, 2012 at 19:14 | #18

    Awesome words Jorma! Just saw him at the Ramble with Los Lobos. While he did look a little frail he still sang one song (ophelia I belive) and a verse from The Weight. A little raspy but he sang none the less. More incredibly though is he banged out and entire set on the drums and smiled the whole night thru. His music makes me smile and sooths my soul. Life is a carnival…

  19. Kate Sullivan
    April 18th, 2012 at 19:33 | #19

    The outpouring of warmth and love on hearing this sad news is a clear example of the “power of music” that so many musicians including yourself have over us. Music really is the universal language that brings souls together and closely binds us in a web of joy. I LOVE LEVON HELM and when I first heard the news yesterday, as expected the tears just flowed. To ease the sorrow, I pulled out a quote that I had written down and is attributed to Kahlil Gibran…….”When you are sorrowful look again in your heart and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.” Thank you Jorma for acknowledging his passage and yes, may his journey be filled with light. He most definitely will remain a light in my heart.

  20. Richard
    April 18th, 2012 at 21:37 | #20

    And so it goes..as you always said.To the wire.Bless…..

  21. Robin Pollack
    April 18th, 2012 at 22:40 | #21

    VERY classy, Jorma. Thank you for your wonderful words about Levon.
    “And, I’ll be bound for glory in the morning,
    When I go away.”
    Mad love to Levon!!

  22. Lisa
    April 18th, 2012 at 23:25 | #22

    I have been fortunate to have spent many magical nights at Levon’s rambles. I saw him just a few weeks ago in Tarrytown and he sung more than I can remember in a long time and he was beaming with joy! It was just a few days ago at your place that I was talking with Larry, Happy and Teresa about Levon not doing well, but never thought his battle was really ending until his family made the news public yesterday. Thank you for sharing your beautiful words and memories of Levon. I know you will miss your friend. We all will…

  23. Myndie
    April 18th, 2012 at 23:50 | #23

    Thanks for the heartfelt mention~

  24. April 19th, 2012 at 04:35 | #24

    I am only an agnostic…but for Levon I will pray. Bless him. He has been a major part of my musical life…since ever more …and…always will be.

    Thanks for writing Jorma. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and memories.
    Have a good tour…bless you and your family.

    Well will all see each other backstage one day…

    Your old roadie and touring buddy of the 80ties:
    Sandy

  25. mutt
    April 19th, 2012 at 07:23 | #25

    Hey Cap’n – Great tribute to your brother in arms. He will be missed, but as Albert Einstein once said, “Our death is not an end if we can live on in our children and the younger generation. For they are us; our bodies are only wilted leaves on the tree of life.” Levon will live on.

    “But your dead will live; their bodies will rise.
    You who dwell in the dust, wake up and shout for joy.
    Your dew is like the dew of the morning;
    the earth will give birth to her dead.”

    Isaiah 26:19

    mutt

  26. Scott
    April 19th, 2012 at 10:35 | #26

    Very well put.

  27. CIndy
    April 19th, 2012 at 10:39 | #27

    Well said Jorma as always. I enjoyed seeing the Band many times. I still miss Rick Danko So sorry I never got to Levons Barn for a Ramble session. He will be missed. My prayers to his family.

  28. Carter Dunkin
    April 19th, 2012 at 10:51 | #28

    Beautiful thoughts, Jorma. Thanks for expressing them so well.

  29. Jeff
    April 19th, 2012 at 16:33 | #29

    RIP Levon

  30. Kate Sullivan
    April 19th, 2012 at 17:41 | #30

    On hearing the news this afternoon it made me realize how thoughtful the Helm family was in giving us a “heads up” two days ago. It prepared me with some protective armor with room to just be thankful for what LEVON has given to so many.

  31. joe in DC
    April 19th, 2012 at 19:09 | #31

    RIP LEVON

  32. Joe
    April 19th, 2012 at 21:18 | #32

    A great deal of the music that represents the fabric of my life was made by Levon Helm. While fortunate to have been “in the room” with him numerous times over the years, one of my deepest regrets is not having attended a Ramble. But, as my then five-year-old daughter said when Garcia passed, “It’s okay, Daddy. Don’t cry. We still have his music, and his CDs.” From the mouths of babes…

    Godspeed, Levon. Thank you for everything.

    Love,
    Joe – age 56, Rochester, NY

  33. Steve Finkelstein
    April 19th, 2012 at 21:30 | #33

    I guess Levon said it best in “Rockin” Chair”

    Hang around, Willie Boy
    Don’t you raise the sails anymore
    It’s for sure, I’ve spent my whole life at sea
    And I’m pushin’ age seventy three
    Now there’s only one place that was meant for me

    Oh, to be home again
    Down in old Virginny
    With my very best friend
    They call him Ragtime Willie
    We’re gonna soothe away the rest of our years
    We’re gonna put away all of our tears
    That big rockin’ chair won’t go nowhere

    Slow down, Willie Boy
    Your heart’s gonna give right out on you
    It’s true, and I believe I know what we should do
    Turn the stern and point to shore
    The seven seas won’t carry us no more

    Oh, to be home again
    Down in old Virginny
    With my very best friend
    They call him Ragtime Willie
    I can’t wait to sniff that air
    Dip’n snuff, I won’t have no care
    That big Rockin’ Chair won’t go nowhere

    Hear the sound, Willie Boy
    The Flyin’ Dutchman’s on the reef
    It’s my belief
    We’ve used up all our time
    This hill’s to steep to climb
    And the days that remain ain’t worth a dime

    Oh, to be home again
    Down in old Virginny
    With my very best friend
    They call him Ragtime Willie
    Would-a-been nice just t’see the folks
    listen once again to the stale jokes
    That big Rockin’ Chair won’t go nowhere

    A fitting epitaph.

  34. Brian Fitzgerald
    April 19th, 2012 at 21:49 | #34

    RIP Levon. I saw The Band, Hot Tuna, and Taj Mahal on one bill at the Paramount in Springfield,MA in ‘87–one great night, Jorma.

  35. George
    April 19th, 2012 at 22:06 | #35

    Levon’s vocals and drumming on The Band’s (Brown) second album with “Rag Mama Rag”, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” and “Up on Cripple Creek” is timeless and one of my desert island discs (up there w/ “Burgers”, “Quah” and “Phosphorescent Rat”).

    Although The Band played concerts from Woodstock to Watkins Glen, I loved their Civil War era image. In concert, I saw The Band in NYC @ The Palladium (Academy Of Music) on 14th Street in autumn 1976, just before Tuna’s Thanksgiving run and WNEW-FM broadcast. The Band then went West to SF to play Last Waltz final show @ Winterland on Thanksgiving.

    Jorma, you wrote a beautiful tribute to Levon. May he Rest In Peace.

  36. chris
    April 20th, 2012 at 10:42 | #36

    Thanks for your tribute. We are not all artists, but we are all fans and the soundtrack of your life is the also the soundtrack of ours. We mourn together. You keep touring, we’ll keep coming.

  37. Steve Singer
    April 20th, 2012 at 11:31 | #37

    RIP Levon. A true gentleman.

  38. Ben
    April 20th, 2012 at 16:52 | #38

    “Ain’t no reason to hang your head,
    I could wake up in the morning dead.”
    Amen.

  39. Tim from Philly
    April 20th, 2012 at 18:47 | #39

    Amen Brother Jorma. Levon caught the Canonball and is riding on down the final line. So many fond memories. Met my wife seeing The Band right after Richard passed. Was seeing LHB sans Amy when everyone got word that she had delivered a son to be called Levon. Never got to see you tour with them wish I had. RIP Levon.

  40. joseph crilly
    April 20th, 2012 at 19:59 | #40

    god bless you levoln. you wetre loved in ireland a true musician

  41. Paul Z
    April 22nd, 2012 at 20:29 | #41

    Well said..it is always hard to see a friend pass from our lives.

  42. Bobby Brown
    November 2nd, 2014 at 00:07 | #42

    Just stumbled across this blog as I have been trying to retrace the night I saw you (Acoustic Hot Tuna), Taj Mahal, and The Band at the Paramount in Springfield in January of 1987. We went to see Hot Tuna as we are dedicated to your music but were in for a surprise. Of course Taj is a Springfield native and alumni from my high school but we were amazed at how incredibly comforting the music of The Band was. The atmosphere that night was one of a kind and I am so grateful we were there. Thank you.

  43. Bobby Brown
    November 2nd, 2014 at 00:11 | #43

    @Brian Fitzgerald yo, homie. just left a comment too lol.