"The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" was playing in a bar in Madrid tonight. You won't mind if I add my own poor tribute to the outpouring of affection for the great Levon Helm, who died last week.
I've always adored The Band's music. If ever there was a whole greater than the sum of its parts, this was it. Each member was unusually talented, Helm not least, but the chemistry was something else again. That's what made the sadness and acrimony that followed after the group broke up so tragic. But we have "The Last Waltz" (much as Helm resented the way it demoted him, as he thought) to remind us how they looked and sounded at their best. It's also good to know that before he died Helm's career enjoyed a second flourishing. He spent his last years doing what he did best, surrounded by family and collaborators who revered him. Not many of us can hope for that.
The second career came about through financial stress. He was broke and fighting throat cancer. He started doing small concerts at his home near Woodstock to raise money for his medical bills. Word spread and his comeback followed. He recorded new albums, "Dirt Farmer" and "Electric Dirt". Both deservedly won Grammys.