“The sun’s ‘gonna shine through the shadows, when I go away." Larry Campbell composer, sung by Levon Helm on Electric Dirt 2009.
It was 1978 when I first saw The Last Waltz, a film which documents the “last” concert of The Band. It was playing in a second run theatre in south Denver. Lots of guests in the film: Dylan, of course, Emmylou, Clapton, Mavis Staples, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Ringo Starr, Dr. John, Van Morrison, Muddy Waters and others. It was directed by Scorsese. It captured a pivotal moment in American music, and it still holds up today. Levon Helm was a key element of that film.
Fast forward 30 years to 2010, Levon Helm is touring again and we have the chance to bring him back to Wolf Trap. (He performed with The Band at The Filene Center in 1994 & 1996.) And what a night it was! John Hiatt & The Combo were special guests, and the concert was exquisite.
To hear Levon sing again was a gift even though his bout with throat cancer and subsequent radiation treatments had ravaged him during the past decade. Levon was back on our stage in 2011. This time with moe. It had the same energy, the same magic.
So as the news of Levon's passing circulates through the music world, we at Wolf Trap are glad that we played a small part in bringing Levon’s music to the people. However fleeting life may be, it’s what you give, not what you get that defines a person’s legacy. As Levon said, “We’re here to play for the dance, we play what we like and we hope you like it too”.
Although Robbie Robertson was writing about romantic love when he penned this song for The Band, it certainly applies:
It makes no difference where I turn
I can’t get over you and the flame still burns
It makes no difference night or day
The shadow never seems to fade away
And the sun don’t shine any more
And the rain falls down on my door
Levon leaves behind a caring family and our hearts go out to them.