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Posts Tagged ‘Grammy Awards’

GC Myers 2001One of my favorite songwriters is the late,  enigmatic Harry Nilsson, who passed away in 1994.  While he is somewhat still well known, it is probably not the same level of fame that his work deserves even though he achieved great fame and earned many accolades during his life.  He recorded and wrote many hits, earned Grammy Awards, and cavorted with the biggest names in music. Lennon and McCartney named him as their favorite songwriter  ( he also recorded an album and more with John Lennon) and Keith Moon and Mama Cass both died in his London flat.  Yet how many twenty or thirty year-olds even recognize the name?

But there is still a great deal of interest in his music and life and there are those out there trying to let the world about the talent of this flawed man.  This past month there was a release of a  large box set spanning his career at RCA as well as a biography, Nilsson: The Life of a Singer-Songwriter,  from author Alyn Shipton.  Not to mention, a celebrated documentary from several years back, Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)?  So, hopefully his work will stick around in the public eye a bit longer.

If you don’t know his name, you probably know the music.  It is used extensively by filmmakers including this song, Jump Into the Fire, that was used in a pivotal scene in Goodfellas by Martin Scorsese.  It’s a good song to pump up a dreary morning.

FYI, the painting at the top is an older piece of mine from back in 2001.

 

 

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It was announced yesterday that Levon Helm in is the “final stages” of the battle he has waged with throat cancer since 1996. Levon is best known as the drummer/vocalist for the legendary group that started in the eary 60’s as the backing band, The Hawks, for early rockabilly star Ronnie Hawkins and later came to fame as The Band behind Bob Dylan as he made the sometimes rocky transition from folk to rock.  On their own, The Band had a number of songs that have become classics over the years– The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, Up On Cripple Creek, The Weight, The Shape I’m In and so on.  Levon , guitarist Robbie Robertson  and organist Garth Hudson are the only remaining living  members of  The Band.

Levon Helm has also been acclaimed as an actor, best known for playing the father of Loretta Lynn in the movie Coal Miner’s Daughter.  His coal miner portrayal in the film had a dead-eyed authenticity that , for me, really made the entire movie seem alive.  It’s the same authenticity that he seems to bring to everything.  I always feel like I’m seeing the real person when I see Levon Helm, even when he’s a character in a film.

The Band-- Levon is 2nd from left.

His life after The Band has had ups and downs.  Following his initial battle with cancer, he found himself in dire financial straits with the weight of huge medical bills pulling him down.  He started hosting a series of concerts, called Midnight Rambles,  at his home/studio in Woodstock, NY in order to raise money to pay his bills.  Because of the damage done to his throat he relied on a series of high profile guests to sing until his voice was strong enough to begin to sing once more, which was several years later in 2004.  This series of concerts revitalized his career and led to his last three albums, Dirt Farmer, Electric Dirt and  Ramble at the Ryman, a live set recorded at the legendary Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.  Both Electric Dirt and Ramble at the Ryman won Grammy Awards in the Americana category.

As I said above, I always had the feeling that what you saw with Levon Helm was what you got. Natural, without artifice.  This world is going to miss the loss of  a real person, maybe the highest compliment of which I can conceive.  Good travels, Levon.

  Here’s one of my favorites from The Band, The Weight, shot in 1970 during the fabled Festival Express.

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