Saturday, July 11, 2009

Was feelin’ about half past dead

We saw Levon Helm on Letterman last night. He's a shadow of his former self, although being 69 and a cancer survivor may have something to do with that:
Helm was diagnosed with throat cancer in the late 1990s after suffering hoarseness. Advised to undergo laryngectomy, Helm instead underwent an arduous regimen of radiation treatments at Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Although the tumor was successfully removed, his vocal cords were damaged, and his clear, powerful tenor voice was replaced by a quiet rasp. Initially Helm only played drums and relied on guest vocalists at the Rambles, but Helm's singing voice grew stronger and on January 10, 2004, he sang for the first time at one of his Ramble Sessions. In 2007, during production of Dirt Farmer, he estimated that his singing voice was 80% recovered.

Still, Levon has participated in some classic American music. Here's Levon with his old band, The Band, doing The Weight at some place called Woodstock:

Here's an interesting and multi-faceted analysis of "The Weight":
Music From Big Pink’s initial success was, in retrospect, surprisingly modest for an album which frequently appears in lists of the Top 100 Rock Albums of All Time. It got to #30 in the US charts while the single, The Weight, written by Robbie Robertson, reached only #63. Other artists had more sucess with covering The Weight. Versions by Jackie DeShannon (US #55, 1968), Aretha Franklin (US #19, April 1969, featuring Duane Allman on guitar), The Supremes with The Temptations (US #46, September 1969) all charted. Significantly for both royalties and for general public awareness, the Diana Ross and The Supremes With The Temptations’ album from which the single was taken reached US #2 and the Aretha Franklin album, Soul 69, reached US #15. The Weight was also heard on the soundtrack of the Peter Fonda / Dennis Hopper film Easy Rider in 1969, which in turn spawned a successful soundtrack album (US # 6 in October 1969 and 41 weeks on the chart).

Interesting, read, worth clicking through to the actual post.