While he is best known for his work with legendary Canadian group the Band, Levon Helm has enjoyed a diverse, 50-plus year career. He was born on May 26, 1940 in Marvell, Arkansas. Helm picked up music at an early age—playing guitar and drums—and was… Read more
While he is best known for his work with legendary Canadian group the Band, Levon Helm has enjoyed a diverse, 50-plus year career. He was born on May 26, 1940 in Marvell, Arkansas. Helm picked up music at an early age—playing guitar and drums—and was supremely influenced by musicians such as Sonny Boy Williamson, Bo Diddley, and Elvis Pressley. Levon Helm got his big break in the mid-1960s. when his group the Hawks accepted an offer from Bob Dylan to be his backing band. However, after Dylan's new electric sound did not go over with many of his fans, Helm quit the group in 1965 and did not return until '67. Back in the fold, the group—now known as the Band—dropped their classic debut Music From Big Pink in 1968. Though it was not a big seller when it was released, it is widely seen as one of rock 'n' roll's greatest albums. From there, the group would go on to release eight more albums, many of which were extremely well-received by fans and critics.
Helm stayed with the Band until 1976, when the poor health of guitarist Robbie Robertson led to the Band's demise. The group reunited in 1983 and carried on until the untimely death of bassist/vocalist Rick Danko in 1999.
Though the Band took up much of his time, Helm stayed busy outside the group, releasing many solo albums, as well as an album under the moniker Levon Helm and the RCO All-Stars. He also formed the Levon Helm Sextet, and the Levon Helm Band. More recently, Helm had been taking a break from the music industry until he released the critically-acclaimed (and Grammy-winning) Dirt Farmer (2007) and Electric Dirt (2009). The discs featured Helm's stamping his takes on folk songs from the past, and they showed that, even nearing his 70s, Levon Helm still has plenty of music inside of him.