Videos by American Songwriter
Grammy-winning recording artist and Band drummer/vocalist Levon Helm was buried in Woodstock Cemetery in Woodstock, New York on April 27. Members of Helm’s Midnight Ramble band were in attendance, and a musical procession and drum line helped lay the rock great to rest. Helm was buried next to Band bassist Rick Danko, who died in 1999. Watch a video of the town’s reaction from local news channel YNN here.
On Helm’s Facebook page, Helm’s longtime manager Barbara O’Brien wrote: “Keep checking in with me. Keep following my and Levon’s FB pages. We WILL do a major fund raiser. We WILL save the barn!!!!”
Rosanne Cash, who performed “many old gospel hymns” and some Levon Helm songs with Joan Osborne and Cat Russell at the funeral, tweeted, “Just leaving Woodstock; so much music today. The drumline through the graveyard– I’ll never forget.”
Musicians’ eulogies continued to appear online.
Lucinda Williams wrote:
A little over a year ago, Levon Helm invited me to open two shows for him in Toronto. Well aware of my Louisiana heritage, he enthusiastically let it be known that he and his band had worked up a version of “Crescent City” and asked if I would sing that song with them and also sit in on “Evangeline”. I’ll never forget Levon’s ear to ear grin as we played those songs.The short time I spent with him over those two nights left a deep and lasting impression on me.
I heard the sad news today and I am in tears as I write this. I lost a hero and a friend. His music inspired and influenced me during my early years and still does, to this day. And now that I’ve been honored to have spent some time with Levon, I have to say that I will always remember him with a twinkle in his eyes, a smile as warm and friendly as his native Arkansas land and an endearing and infectious spirit that will live on forever.
Thank you for your musical lessons, Levon. Rave on, brother.
Loretta Lynn wrote:
Levon Helm will always hold a special place in my heart. He was as great of an actor as a musician … For me watching him play the role of my daddy in Coal Miner’s Daughter is a memory I will always treasure.
And Simone Felice, original drummer for Catskill, New York band The Felice Brothers, who were frequently compared to The Band in their early days, wrote:
I am on a ferryboat from Hollyhead to Dublin when I get the news from home: Levon has passed away.
First thing I do is turn my head to the window and find the cold blue sea beyond, the waves like a living, dancing quilt rolling out to meet the sky.
Could it have been little more than a month back that I sat on a wooden bench not five feet from his drum-riser as he played and sang the Band classic “Ophelia” with the grace of a veteran dancer, the spirit of a country preacher, at once weather-worn, fiery, weary, lithe, labored, imperishable.
It is true there was a gleam in his eye. Like a school-boy skipping classes all afternoon to while the hours away with friends down by the river’s edge, elemental wonders, joyful just to live within earshot of the sound of music.
I’ve had the extraordinary privilege to have shared the stage with Levon, one of the great honors of my life, to have been one of those children dodging the truant officer, my toes in the rushing water, a dream.
Levon Helm is more than a drummer. More than a singer. He is a natural force, akin to weather and rain, not very different from the quiet wood in which he made his home, the wind that whips the trees. You could walk from Arkansas to Alberta, Winnipeg to Woodstock and you’d be hard-pressed to find a more soulful, gracious man.
I can’t assume to know where our heroes go when they die. Nirvana. Heaven. The tremendous band in the sky, assembled in the round, together there on a sun-kissed, better shore. Whatever it’s called, wherever it is, you can bet the farm that today the bells are ringing there, and the people are singing. Because Levon knows what we can only guess: that there is no last waltz. That we’ll forever file in through the barn door with the ones we love, drawn by the firelight, grab our children and go round and round in a dance interminable. We doe-see-doe. We stomp the boards. Shout. Kiss. Cry. Sing. Spin. Laugh. Squeal. Study the stars through the gaps in the ceiling.
For photos and more details on the funeral, click here.