Ain’t In It For My Health – Levon Helm

20130314-202246.jpgLevon Helm, so much to say.  Elaine, Arkansas-born, the only American in The Band – the group that framed roots, alternative country and Americana way before the terms were even dreamed of.  The band that was crucial to the electric Dylan.

Levon Helm – drummer, singer, actor, author, creator of the Midnight Ramble. Just one example – his rendition of “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” in the farewell concert documentary The Last Waltz for me is one of the most passionate, powerful and goose-bump vocals of rock music.

And now Ain’t In It For My Heath: A Film About Levon Helm, directed by Jacob Hatley is coming.

Hatley’s intimate documentary finds Helm at home in his beloved Woodstock, New York State, in the midst of creating his first studio album in twenty five years.  Shot during the course of two-plus years, this highly anticipated film focuses in on the four-time Grammy winner and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member after his 2007 comeback album Dirt Farmer brought him back to the spotlight.

While this period was artistically productive, Ain’t In It For My Health also shows Helm dealing with the burdens of renewed celebrity, continuing financial obligation and returning health problems.  The man known worldwide for his soulful voice, (as well as his singular and unparalleled drumming and multi-instrumental skills), permitted a camera crew inside his home to show the world an intimate side of his art and life.

Of the film, longtime Helm collaborator and musical director Larry Campbell says: “Jacob was the perfect fly on the wall for many months as we experienced the ups and downs of a wonderful time in all our lives.  The result is a rare, artful, and honest glimpse into the fascinating world of one of our true American treasures, Levon Helm.”

In 1998, Levon was diagnosed with throat cancer and the famous voice with the rich southern nuances was silenced to a whisper.  He still played the drums, mandolin and harmonica, often performing with his daughter, Amy Helm.  Miraculously, Levon’s voice slowly returned.  He felt comfortable enough to sing again live, although not all the time.  I had the privilege of seeing him in New Orleans in April 2010.  While he sang seldom during that set, it was a joy to see him perform and something that I will never forget.  Sadly, Levon’s throat cancer returned and he passed away on April 19 2012.

This movie will be a great chance to renew acquaintances with a legend.

Author: Rob Dickens

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