He sang the anthems of a generation: "The Weight," "Up on Cripple Creek," and "Life Is a Carnival." Levon Helm's story––told here through sweeping research and interviews with close friends and fellow musicians––is the rollicking story of American popular music itself.
In the Arkansas Delta, a young Levon witnessed "blues, country, and gospel hit in a head-on collision," as he put it. The result was rock 'n' roll. As a teenager, he joined the raucous Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks, then helped merge a hard-driving electric sound with Bob Dylan's folk roots, and revolutionized American rock with the Band. Helm not only provided perfect "in the pocket" rhythm and unforgettable vocals, he was the Band's soul.
Levon traces a rebellious life on the road, from being booed with Bob Dylan to the creative cauldron of Big Pink, the Woodstock Festival, world tours, The Last Waltz, and beyond with the man Dylan called "one of the last true great spirits of my or any other generation."
Author Sandra B. Tooze digs deep into what Helm saw as a devastating betrayal by his closest friend, Band guitarist Robbie Robertson––and Levon's career collapse, his near bankruptcy, and the loss of his voice due to throat cancer in 1997. Yet Helm found success in an acting career that included roles in Coal Miner's Daughter and The Right Stuff. Regaining his singing voice, he made his last decade a triumph, opening his barn to the Midnight Rambles and earning three Grammys. Cancer finally claimed his life in 2012.
Levon is a penetrating, skillfully told tale of a music legend from Southern cotton fields to global limelight.
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About the Author
Sandra B. Tooze garnered world-wide acclaim for her book Muddy Waters: Mojo Man. Eric Clapton wrote the foreword, and Levon Helm and Mick Jagger both endorsed it with back-cover quotes. The reviewer for America’s preeminent blues magazine, Living Blues , called it a “first rate biography. . . . An illumination and a joy, it deserves a place on our shelves as a loving and earnest tribute to one of the greats of American music.” On Britain’s BBC radio, her book was described as “terrific. . . . and absolutely great.” And in the UK’s premier music magazine, Mojo , it was praised as “a vivid, brilliantly researched portrait.”
Table of Contents
1 Best Seat in the House 1
2 From Turkey Scratch to the Hawk 13
3 "The Wildest, Fiercest, Speed-Driven Bar Band in America" 35
4 Gambling on Roulette 59
5 The Hawks Take Wing 89
6 Dylan Plugs In and Helm Checks Out 109
7 In the Pink with the Band 125
8 "The Only Drummer That Can Make You Cry" 143
9 "The Shape I'm In" 169
10 Out of Step with the Last Waltz 189
11 Restoring the Rhythm 205
12 And the Band Played On 219
13 From the Ashes 237
14 "Blues Before Sunrise" 265
15 "God Wasn't Through with You" 291
About the Author 378