Friday, May 4, 2012

For Real Toads: the music of Levon Helm

“They never should have 
 taken the very best”
from “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” by Robbie Robertson
Robertson playing in The Band
music is thicker than water, I know,
and somehow a Canadian wrote 
a legendary American song
for his friend Levon—
and the drums, oh, the drums!
for the pain of Virgil Caine
“like my brother before me,
 I took a Rebel stand...
 he was just eighteen, proud and brave
 when a Yankee laid him in his grave”
Levon Helm playing and singing
when The Band played the song
others picked it up
Joan Baez, Johnny Cash,
John Denver, Jerry Garcia,
but they didn’t have
the drums, Levon's drums!
for the pain of Virgil Caine 
“I swear by the mud below my feet
 you can’t raise a Caine back up when he’s in defeat”
Marian’s challenge this week at the writers’ group Imaginary Garden with Real Toads, is to base our writing on a song by the late, great Levon Helm, drummer and lead singer with The Band. Although Levon didn’t write this song, he worked with Robbie Robertson, especially setting him straight about the American Civil War.
Levon Helm died last month at the age of 71, following a long struggle with cancer, but he had kept singing and recording until last year. As well as drums, he played other instruments, and had a brief but successful acting career.

The Band in the movie "The Last Waltz"
Levon Helm, 2011


Helen said...

You provided a lot of information ... and in the process, gave us a mighty fine poem.

Hannah said...

Yes, I agree with Helen and I was thinking about Johnny Cash as I listened to this earlier. Love him, too! Great poem!

Marian said...

i think robbie wasn't the only canadian in The Band, am I right? *runs off to look it up*
this is a gorgeous tribute, i love it. and that last photo of Levon! whoosh.

Daydreamertoo said...

A lovely tribute to Levon. His music will live on.

Kerry O'Connor said...

I enjoyed this fine tribute to Levon.

Cezar and Léia said...

Keep on drummin'!
God bless you!

hedgewitch said...

One of my favorite songs--and it's been played a million gazillion times on every classic rock station for thirty some years, but every time you here Levon Helm sing "Virgil Caine is the name/and I served on the Danville train...' the whole thing is like the first time. Fine tribute Kay.

Susie Clevenger said...

Loved your tribute...hate it when we lose such a treasure.

Mary Ann Potter said...

Nicely done, Kay, and I enjoyed your take on this prompt so much!!! Did you know that Judy Collins recorded this song, too? It's one of my favorite versions.