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Levon Helm and the Story of the The Band

by Levon Helm with Stephen Davis

Pub Date: Oct. 20th, 1993
ISBN: 0-688-10906-3
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Enjoyable history of a seminal late-60's rock group, told by the group's drummer with the help of Davis (co-author, Fleetwood, 1990, etc.).

The Band were an anomaly among groups of the era: Neither psychedelic nor commercial, their music harked back to the folk and blues roots of rock 'n' roll—and band members even looked like they'd just stepped out of a tintype. Working in seclusion in Woodstock, New York, with their sometime employer Bob Dylan, the group crafted a music that eerily captured the spirit of America's past. Here, Helm draws on his own memories of this heady time, along with interviews with surviving Band-men (other than Robbie Robertson, with whom he's had a nasty falling out), to give a fairly honest appraisal of the music and the times. Unlike some other celebrity rock-star memoirists, Helm doesn't concentrate on the sex and drugs that seem to be an integral part of any legitimate rock memoir, but describes as well the making of each album and the genesis of the songs. He also gives a scathing portrait of the making of The Last Waltz, the film of the group's last megaconcert, given in 1976—a film in which, Helm says, director Martin Scorsese glorified Robertson to the detriment of the group's other members.

Helm's folksy manner can grate ("Memory lane can be a pretty painful address at times''); overall, though, a readable and evenhanded account that will appeal to Band fans and 60s nostalgists (though Barney Hoskyns's Across the Great Divide, covers much of the same ground).