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Published: 2012/04/20

Garth Hudson, Warren Haynes, Umphrey’s McGee, Wilco, moe., Guster, Drive-By Truckers and More Salute Levon Helm

Photo by Michael Weintrob

A number of musicians paid tribute to The Band’s Levon Helm on Thursday after hearing of the drummer’s passing. During his show at Charleston, SC’s Charleston Music Hall, Warren Haynes Band encored with a segue from “It Makes No Difference” into “The Weight” and then back into “It Makes No Difference.” Haynes was close with Helm during his latter years and performed at many of his Midnight Rambles.

While performing at Tulsa, OK’s Cain’s Ballroom last night, Umphrey’s McGee covered “Up on Cripple Creek” in honor of Helm. Meanwhile, Guster performed “The Night I Drove Old Dixie Down” as their encore at Tarrytown, NY’s Music Hall (one of the last places Helm performed besides his Woodstock, NY-area barn). Elsewhere, Drive-By Truckers invited out their opening act Megafaun for a take on “The Weight” at Chapel Hill NC’s Cat’s Cradle. During their opening set, Megafaun also launched into “I Shall Be Released,” a song the group brought back into their set after hearing of Helm’s health issues. Megafaun’s former bandmate Justin Vernon saluted Helm as well, performing “Ophelia” with his project Bon Iver at San Francisco’s Bill Graham Civic Center. A little north, Greensky Bluegrass tackled “The Weight” at Seattle, WA’s Showbox.

In addition, memories and reflections have trickled in across the web. In a post on Wilco’s Facebook page, drummer Glenn Kotche said, “Levon Helm was simply one of the greatest drummers ever. But he was also one of the most influential musicians and important artists of our time. Levon had a depth of feel that does not exist anymore. His brilliantly economic parts, lyrical phrasing and incredible touch and tone on the drums were as unique as his song writing and timeless voice. His impact on me cannot be overstated. Getting the privilege to double drum with him last year at our Solid Sound festival was one of the greatest thrills I could ever imagine. He was a passionate man with an extremely gracious, warm and giving personality. That he made some of his best music in the final years of his life, is a testament to his greatness and historical significance. He will be dearly missed.”

Likewise, Chris Robinson posted, “To our dear friend…Thank You for your heart and your soul.” Shortly before Helm’s passing, moe. drummer Vinnie Amico reflected, “Not only is Levon an influence to my playing and me musically, especially his feel, his positive vibe and unlimited energy have influenced me and inspired me personally. Thanks, Levon….we all love you man…” In the same message, moe. guitarist Al Schnier continued, “Levon, you’re a great inspiration to us all. To see you surrounded by loving family, friends, & great musicians – writing & performing vibrant music that’s charged with life & energy is a great gift to us all. We’re all fortunate to have been part of it.”

In his second message this week , Band organist Garth Hudson also looked back on his longtime collaborator. The message posted on his homepage reads:

Levon Helm left us today at 1:30 pm, Thursday, April 19, 2012. I am terribly sad. Thank you for 50 years of friendship and music. Memories that live on with us. No more sorrows, no more troubles, no more pain. He went peacefully to that beautiful marvelous wonderful place. He was buddy rich’s favorite rock drummer … And my friend. Levon, I’m proud of you.

Helm was surrounded by friends and musicians at the time of his death. The members of his current band were singing songs around him as he passed.

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