From the creators of the PBS television series SOUND TRACKS, Quick Hits is a web-original series that features intimate interviews and performances with some of today's leading musicians.
The next episode of
SOUND TRACKS: Music Without Borders
airs beginning October 5 on PBS.
Like Johnny Cash or Willie Nelson, there is something fundamentally authentic about Levon Helm. His music always felt real and if you ever read his autobiography, This Wheel’s on Fire, you know he doesn’t flinch from describing his long, rambunctious ride.
As Levon explained, these midnight rambles - which have become a tremendous success featuring a who’s who of guest stars – began as “rent parties” organized by his manager Barbara O’Brien to pay the mortgage on his farm and cover his medical bills. Weed and whiskey were replaced by cancer treatments.
Levon Helm was a survivor. A man who beat the odds. A true gentleman. And even up until the end, he could still drum like a demon for two hours straight.
What was most important to Levon was keeping his American roots music alive, and passing it on. Lots of new groups seem to be tuning in – from the Decemberists to Mumford & Sons and the Carolina Chocolate Drops.
We're tempted to describe Levon as a lion in winter, but as you’ll see in this interview with Marco Werman, he’s more like a Cheshire cat with that incredible smile and a wry perspective on his life. Don't miss his rendition of a Turkish Army Band toward the end of this conversation.
Our Quick Hits team was directed by John MacGibbon with Andy Bowley as director of photography.
Levon Helm’s website