Levon Helm, music and place


We received an email from a friend of Under a Grey Sky, Chris Wright, who wanted to point us in the direction of an article in the Atlantic about the death of The Band’s drummer and vocalist Levon Helm. Chris wrote, “Perhaps you could find a space to link out to this one, as it does a very good job of celebrating the life and work of one of my all-time favourites and a mighty contributor to Rock & Roll, and his work has featured on your blog before.”

Here’s an extract, linked to the video above:

“Watch this incredible performance of Van Morrison’s “Caravan” and pay attention to what happens at around 0:17: The Band start the song just a bit too fast, and three bars in Levon slows the entire thing down, in the blink of an eye, like an expert jockey atop a world-class thoroughbred. By conventional rule, spontaneously slowing down or speeding up a song is a cliché of bad music-making, but here it works. And of course the tempo he slows it to is exquisitely, achingly right.”

Read the rest of the article

Recently we have had posts about how a sense of a place can inspire someone in their art, or cause reflection, whether personal or about events we did not experience but have become forever linked with a particular landscape or location. What I think about when I hear Van Morrison’s distinctive voice is the landscape of North Wales and particularly Anglesey, where I heard many of his great songs for the first time, and thus his music and that landscape are forever linked in my mind. Which brings us right back to Chris and his email, because if I have heard Van Morrison in those places, then it was probably Chris or another member of his family that pressed the play button.

1 thought on “Levon Helm, music and place

  1. Ian Wright (@ianherriesw)

    Thanks, Chris; thanks, Paul. For me seeing the Last Waltz on TV in about 1980 at home in Anglesey was a seminal moment. What a performers! what performances! Topped absolutely by Van with ‘Caravan’; for me it was THE ‘hairs on the back of the neck’ moment. From that day on Van became part of life. Van’s music is in the fabric of the buildings at Outdoor Alternative which were built to a continuous background of Van.
    Levon drove that wonderful concert and leaves a fabulous record of his musicianship.

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