April 20, 2012

"He was my bosom buddy friend to the end, one of the last true great spirits of my or any other generation."

"This is just so sad to talk about. I still can remember the first day I met him and the last day I saw him. We go back pretty far and had been through some trials together. I'm going to miss him, as I'm sure a whole lot of others will too."

Bob Dylan, on the death of Levon Helm.

From a list of links at that link, I see that Rolling Stone once rated Levon Helm the 91st greatest singer of all time. From the explanation why:
Since Papa Garth Hudson didn't really sing, I always felt that, vocally, Levon was the father figure in the Band. He always seems strong and confident, like a father calling you home, or sometimes scolding you. The beauty in Richard Manuel's singing was often the sense of pain and darkness he conveyed. Rick Danko had a lot of melancholy to his voice as well, but he could also be a little more goofy. They were all different shades of color in the crayon box, and Levon's voice is the equivalent of a sturdy old farmhouse that has stood for years in the fields, weathering all kinds of change yet remaining unmovable.
I don't follow the bands today. Do they still have bands where different singers sing differently?

38 comments:

prairie wind said...

I first knew of Levon Helm when he starred in Coalminer's Daughter, so I thought of him as an actor. Weird, that as familiar as his songs are to me, I never made the connection that he was a singer.

prairie wind said...

Good thing this is a music post and not a grammar post or someone would take me to task for my atrocious use of, commas.

Kev said...

(the other kev)

"Sir, is that a man?"

"You're damn right it is."

A great line from a great movie.

Deb said...

@Kev, first thing I thought of when I read the story. Loved The Band. I saw them perform in Atlanta in 1970 or so. Seems so long ago.

Jon Burack said...

I consider The Band the greatest group of its generation. When my wife of 30 years passed a few years back, I prepared a CD of music for the service we held. The last two songs were by The Band: "We Can Talk About It Now," and "Ophelia," sung by Levon Helm.

Ashes of laughter
The ghost is clear
Why do the best things always disappear?

Levon Helm, RIP

Bob Ellison said...

Do they still have bands where different singers sing differently?

Consider the Black Eyed Peas. (Disclaimer: they're ultra-pop, of course, but so were the Beatles.) They have three very different voices competing for attention nicely in the soundstream.

traditionalguy said...

When Bob Dylan says that you are a great spirit, that is a credential that no one can argue with. He was a great spirit living in a temporary human body.

leslyn said...

Try Black-eyed Peas and Heartless Bastards. Really like HB's latest. And the female vocalist has a voice reminiscent of Janis Joplin. Springsteen's backup has variety and is pretty good.

Lucinda Williams is a solo artist with a backup, but she has some nice collaborations and guest artists. "World Without Tears" is unique, IMO.

Will Cate said...

There is a great long-time power-pop band from Canada called Sloan (sadly still unknown here in the states), wherein all four members write songs and sing.

Michael Haz said...

RIP Levon Helm.

Levon Helm was part of a movement to preserve part of a great musical tradition - American Roots Music. His CDs Dirt Farmer and Electric Dirt are superb examples of American Roots Music, and should be in everyone's collection.

Kit said...

More, back in the day (B52's, Fleetwood Mac, Eagles,ABBA, Van Halen, Chicago, Grateful Dead, to only name a few), bands had multiple singers, as I recall. Few do, today - Black Eyed Peas were mentioned, plus Arcade Fire, Wild Flag, Bon Iver, Ok go, Gomez are the only few of today that I can come up with.

Rialby said...

I was going to say Gomez. Wilco and the Old 97s are a couple that have tried different singers but the vast majority of songs are by one singer.

Mitchell said...

I wonder if Mr. Dylan ever expressed those fond sentiments to Mr. Helm, directly.

Hagar said...

Do they still have bands where different singers sing differently?

How can you tell amid all that noise?

Ann Althouse said...

I'm looking for bands with multiple lead singers, and no one obvious main singer, and not a lead singer with backup singers.

Chip Ahoy said...

I do not know about bands having multiple singers, this concept is all so new to me, but I cannot think about that because I'm still a little bit shocked because none of my boxes of 64 color crayons had anything like sturdy old farmhouse which I'm imagining is red that peels off to grey which sounds like a really cool color and a bummer to have missed.

Crimso said...

"Do they still have bands where different singers sing differently?"

Perhaps Phish. All four sing (I've heard them do a capella stuff that would floor you), though Trey Anastasio sings lead somewhat more than the others. And I think their vocal styles are sufficiently different. They're certainly not everyone's cup of tea, but I consider them to be the best live act in the world on a consistent basis (NEVER seen a show that was just okay).

leslyn said...

And of course there were the Soggy Bottom Boys. They were only on one album, but who could forget them? I would happily have listened to more.

Michael Haz said...

The Eagles had multiple singers, as did the Beach Boys. Fleetwood Mac was four lead singers who were also great musicians.

Of the current groups, Old Crow Medicine Show has multiple lead singers, as does Little Big Town. Sugarland alternates between Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush, but Nettles' voice is the one most often heard.

The "Soggy Bottom Boys" were in real life part of Union Station, the hugely talented band that backs Alison Kraus. "Man of Constant Sorrow" was sung primarily by Union Station's superb Dan Tyminski.

CJinPA said...

The Beatles

Eagles

The Cars

They each had multple lead singers. It wasn't until somewhat recently that I realized I really dug that trait, and that it is rare.

leslyn said...

OK. Blackeyed Peas, Asleep at the Wheel, Backstreet Boys, E Street Band.

sonicfrog said...

My band Acoustic Highway has multiple vocalists. We have our roots in folk music, so even though we do a lot of stuff outside that genre, it's fun to go back to that for a number of songs.

The key to bands like The Band and The Eagles is that the performers are instrumentalists first and are fine musicians, but also sing.

One groups I had overlooked was The Cars. Everyone knows Ric Ocasik, but the bass player Benjamin Orr actually sang a good portion of the famous songs. And the musicianship was top-notch. I've only now discovered this because one of my side projects is an 80's cover band, and for the first time I'm sitting down and learning and dissecting a number of their songs.

PS.. Speaking of vocals, I've been on a Seekers bent for the last few days. You want to talk about vocalists! Judith Durham's voice is simply stunning!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LBHm30SxxtE&feature=related

leslyn said...

I forgot The Iguanas, and Los Lobos.

leslyn said...

@Michael Haz:

Cool Info on the Soggy Bottom Boys. Links led to Harley Allen and Pat Enright. I would love to hear them get together again. Too bad that an album that won a Grammy for Best Album of the Year hasn't produced more.

leslyn said...

Same generation: Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Michael Haz said...

@leslyn - Union Station still plays behing Alison Kraus.

Here are Union Station's Dan Tyminski and Ron Block doing a spot-on acoustic version of Man of Constant Sorrow. You's recognize theri voices form the movie.

Bender said...

In other celebrity news --

Jonathan Frid saw the preview for the new Dark Shadows remake and it was so bad, he promptly died.

leslyn said...

@Michael Haz: I think I saw George Clooney in the crowd in the opening. He was hiding behind a hat, sunglasses and beard. Looked just like him!

lgv said...

I remember the concert in nearby Watkins Glen with the Grateful Dead, The Band, and the Allman Brothers.

Later while channel surfing I was pulled into The Last Waltz. I didn't think it could be as good as it was.

Also, the stories from their tour across Canada with Joplin fascinating.

My iPod has two Band songs, both sung by Levon.

lgv said...

Do they still have bands where different singers sing differently?

Bare Naked Ladies

Kirk Parker said...

Wailin' Jennys.

Paul said...

"I wonder if Mr. Dylan ever expressed those fond sentiments to Mr. Helm, directly."

They were great friends actually.

I posted my relationship with Levon in the earlier on his passing (played in his band a became good friends)and one night when we played the Lone Star in NYC Dylan sat in with us. On a break in the tour bus Levon introduced me to him. He acted like I wasn't even there, but his affection and camaraderie with Levon was undeniable.

Levon was loved by pretty much everyone he met. He was a true southern gentleman, but god help you if you ever crossed him, like Robbie Robertson!

Paul said...

Earlier thread dammit!! I've stopped previewing due to the pita wv process.

chickenlittle said...

Ann Althouse said...
I'm looking for bands with multiple lead singers, and no one obvious main singer, and not a lead singer with backup singers.

Sonic Youth, The Grateful Dead,& Husker Du had two singers. Nirvana could have had two. The B52's had three.

Kirk Parker said...

There's also duos like Dala and First Aid Kit, but while they have 2 singers, they don't necessarily qualify as singing "differently"--in the case of Dala, it sometimes takes the music video to realize they're alternating lines.

Hunter Clarke said...

They Might Be Giants splits lead singing duties pretty evenly between John(s) Linnell and Flansburgh.

It's a little harder to tell them apart in the early stuff, but Flansy's singing gradually took on a more distinct character.

Curious George said...

Traveling Wilburys

Kirk Parker said...

And if we're (off-topically?) talking about old groups, how come nobody's mentioned Buffalo Springfield or CSN(Y)?