Picks and Pans Review: Spotlight On...
Levon Helm plays on.
The drummer (and occasional actor) made it through the 1976 breakup of his classic group the Band and the loss of two bandmates—keyboardist Richard Manuel, who committed suicide during a reunion tour in 1986, and bassist Rick Danko, who died of a heart attack in December. But Helm's toughest battle has been against the throat cancer that recently stole his melodious baritone. "I don't sing anymore," he rasps, "which makes me a hell of an enthusiastic drummer."
But the Marvell, Ark., native's voice can be heard on digitally remastered reissues of four seminal Band albums, from 1968's Music from Big Pink through 1971's Cahoots. While Helm, 60, is proud of his group's music, he has chilly feelings for Robbie Robertson, whom he claims hogged songwriting credits (which Robertson denies) "He hates me and I hate him," Helm says. These days Helm, who lives in Woodstock, N.Y., plays with the Barn Burners, a country-blues group that includes his daughter Amy, 29, on vocals and piano. "They're still learning," he says. "But I love to see 'em make a mistake. That means they're reaching for something."