Friday, April 20, 2012

"I see my light come shining"

Danko, Manuel, and now Levon Helm. RIP. Charles P. Pierce at Esquire on Levon Helm and The Band:
.... Then, Capitol released Music from Big Pink. It didn't sound like anything on the radio. It didn't sound like anything on earth. The lyrics were dense and allusive, as dense as Dylan's, but drawn from a different place, a bleached-out roadhouse in Fort Smith, not a folk club in the Village, the kind of place where, as Levon once said, you had to puke twice and show them your knife before you could get in. You could hear all kinds of things in the music — white soul, field hollers, the sound a carnival makes on the outskirts of town when the sun drops behind the horizon and all the lights come up. It might have been recorded in 1938 for all anyone really knew. In his legendary review in Rolling Stone, Al Kooper, no stranger to musical eccentricity his own self, tried to parse out all the influences he heard on the record:
I hear the Beach Boys, the Coasters, Hank Williams, the Association, the Swan Silvertones as well as obviously Dylan and the Beatles. What a varied bunch of influences. I love all the music created by the above people and a montage of these forms (bigpink) boggles the mind. But it's also something else. It's that good old, intangible, can't-put-your-finger-on-it "White Soul." Not so much a white cat imitating a spade, but something else that reaches you on a non-Negro level like church music or country music or Jewish music or Dylan. The singing is so honest and unaffected, I can't see how anyone could find it offensive (as in "white people can't pull this kind of thing off".)
The guitar darted in and out between the keyboards, which were all a tangle of juke joint and high Mass. The drums had a throb to them, like a vagabond's last heartbeat. And the voices sounded like a choir put together in the the toughest joint in a lost frontier — the soulful, gulping joy of Rick Danko, and the high, gorgeous soul of Richard Manuel. And Levon, in whose voice we all got our country back again. .... [more]


Levon Helm Was the Real Voice of America, by Charles P. Pierce - Esquire
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