5 Masterful Levon Helm Features, Including Tunes by Neil Young, Ringo Starr & More

Levon Helm, the supremely talented multi-instrumentalist and singer best known as the drummer and co-lead vocalist of the influential Americana group The Band, died on April 19, 2012. He was 71.

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Helm’s contributions to The Band’s music are well-documented, and, as a member of that group, he also collaborated with Bob Dylan on numerous occasions. In addition, he mounted an acclaimed and Grammy-winning solo career.

[RELATED: 5 Songs You Didn’t Know Levon Helm Wrote for The Band]

Meanwhile, Helm also lent his instrumental and vocal talents to a variety of other artists’ recordings over the years. In commemoration of the anniversary of his death, here are five excellent songs by various artists that feature Helm:

Todd Rundgren – “Once Burned” (1970)

Todd Rundgren’s 1970 debut solo album, Runt, featured the soulful ballad “Once Burned.” Helm’s drumming lends a tasteful feel to the tune, on which Rundgren’s melodic vocals almost seem to be channeling the singing style of The Band’s Richard Manuel. The Band’s bassist, Rick Danko, also contributed to the song.

Ringo Starr – “Sunshine Life for Me (Sail Away Raymond)” (1973)

Ringo Starr’s 1973 solo album, Ringo, was a star-studded affair that featured contributions from all of his former Beatles bandmates and most of the members of The Band. Helm, Danko, Robbie Robertson, and Garth Hudson play on a song called “Sunshine Life for Me (Sail Away Raymond),” which was written by George Harrison.

The song is a down-home country rave-up that features Helm on mandolin and Danko on fiddle, with Harrison contributing prominent backing vocals.

Ringo was Starr’s most successful solo album, peaking at No. 2 on the Billboard 200.

Neil Young – “See the Sky About to Rain” (1974)

Helm adds swinging, steady beat to “See the Sky About to Rain,” a mellow folk-rock ballad on Neil Young’s 1974 album On the Beach.

Although the album featured no hit singles, it did reach No. 16 on the Billboard 200. Helm also plays drums on another track on the record, the more-rocking “Revolution Blues,” which features Danko on bass.

Martina McBride – “Cry on the Shoulder of the Road” (1995)

Helm contributed backing vocals to the Martina McBride song “Cry on the Shoulder of the Road,” which appeared on the country star’s third album, Wild Angels. The melodic tune was a minor hit, peaking at No. 26 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart.

Mercury Rev – “Opus 40” (1998)

Alternative-rock band Mercury Rev’s 1998 album Deserter’s Songs was voted the album of the year by U.K. magazine NME. The album including the song “Opus 40,” on which Helms played drums. The soaring, spacy tune’s verses have a carnival-like feel reminiscent of a number of songs by The Band.

Hudson played sax on another track, “Hudson Line,” while Helm’s daughter, Amy, contributed backing vocals to the album.

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