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FINDING A RESTING PLACE Levon Helm died last week and I got to thinking about how long his old and soulful voice has been part of my life.
He was 71 when he died but Levon and I were young men with southern accents back then (he made music with his, I tried to get rid of mine; it worked out OK for both of us). He was singing and I was drowning in the mess I made of my life and still more than a year away from pulling myself together enough to take a 99 of louis vuitton bags are fake deep breath and swim for higher ground. Levon and I have gone through some stuff together. It was 1968 and things were happening. The Summer of Love happened in San Francisco in 1967 and hippies were happening everywhere. Vietnam had happened, was louis vuitton shoes barneys happening and would continue to happen. The draft darkened my days because I knew being drafted would force some difficult louis vuitton neverfull look alike choices about fighting or fleeing and both promised dire consequences (it was much easier to picture myself in a hippie uniform than an Army uniform). There were protests and they were growing. In March, Lyndon Johnson said he he would neither seek nor accept the Democratic nomination for another term in office (I watched the speech alone in a beer bar). LBJ was going (and we were glad), Nixon was coming (but we couldn see him clearly yet). North Vietnam Tet offensive happened in January. soldiers (no one would know about it for a year but there was already a nagging feeling that terrible things were happening to somebody over there somewhere every day). Walter Cronkite turned against the Vietnam war (if he was against it, who could be for it?). Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in April; Robert Kennedy was killed in June (a couple of days after somebody shot Andy Warhol). There was violence in Chicago and the Democrats nominated Hubert Humphrey to run for president. Jackie Kennedy married Aristotle Onasis. Nixon defeated Humphrey in November to become president. And 1968 had its own soundtrack: Cream, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors; Marvin Gaye heard it through the grapevine and only needed Tammy Terrell to get by; Ohio Express had love in its tummy; Janis Joplin fronted Big Brother and the Holding Company in a world that was down on her; the Intruders sang "Cowboys to Girls;" the song said Otis Redding was sitting on the dock of the bay, but he wasn (he was dead already); the Byrds released Sweetheart of the Rodeo and Gram Parsons was already rethinking country music (lots of Byrds fans hated it); meanwhile the Rolling Stones were playing let pretend fronted by Jumpin Jack Flash and posing as street fighting men; and the Beatles sang "Hey Jude." In 1968 there were music and mayhem aplenty. The Band Music from Big Pink came out in July 1968. I first heard it in a grubby apartment with a grubby guy named Bill and his pale, lank haired girlfriend. They weren dirty exactly, but they were unwashed and had achieved a sort of hippie grubbiness that I admired, even aspired to, but didn achieve for another couple of years (and then mostly on weekends because I was always a hippie with a good day job). Bill was a student from Antioch College who was spending a semester as a copyboy at the North Carolina newspaper where I worked as an editor Antioch students had to do odd things like that as part of their education and he brought the album with him from New York City, where he stopped off to visit friends in the Village on the way from Ohio to North Carolina (Bill intrigued me and words like "Antioch," "Ohio" "the Village" and "New York City" sounded exotic to a guy who had never been farther south than Myrtle Beach, SC, farther north than Culpepper, VA or farther west than east Tennessee). The record wasn even for sale where I lived. I had never heard of The Band, but Bill wanted me to hear the album. He said they had toured with Bob Dylan; he said Dylan wrote some of the stuff on the album (I liked electric Dylan). Dylan even did the painting on the album cover. He said it was something I needed to hear. He hinted there would be drugs involved (I was a southern boy and my idea of a good time in those days involved large quantities of beer and the occasional bottle of Rebel Yell). "Come over after work," Bill said. I said, "Sure." Bill was right. The first song on side one was "Tears of Rage" and I knew from the beginning that it was something brand new that sounded like I had been listening to for a long, long time. The feeling grew as the needle moved to "To Kingdom Come" and "In a Station" and "Caledonia Mission." Richard Manuel sang; Rick Danko sang. And then the first accoustic notes of "The Weight," and then the drums, and then the voice of Levon Helm, taking me to someplace I might have been before but via a brand new route, a place of mystery and music and language gathered louis vuitton artsy gm price up in ways that were foreign and familiar at the same time. A journey to Nazareth, a message (several messages from "Miss Anny"), Miss Moses, Carmen, the Devil, Luke waiting for Judgement Day, a guy named Crazy Chester and a dog named Jack, freighted blblical sounding words and mysterious meanings, not quite religious but hymnlike. A new song with the heart and soul of an old song. Folk music, rock and roll. Country music (but what country? Those were the days when Bobby Goldsboro was singing the smarmy "Honey" on the radio and it wasn that country). All of those things but not quite any of those things. We listened to the album over and over that day. I am not sure how many times because both beer and marijuana were involved, but now I have listened to The Band for 44 years stoned, drunk and cold sober. I even saw them a couple of times in Atlanta (where I finally washed up on a slippery slope that I mistook for higher ground), once with their manager Albert Grossman in attendance. Grossman (whose wife is on the cover of Bob Dylan Bringing It All Back Home and reminded every guy I knew of the woman he never meet) died in 1986 when he suffered a supersonic heart attack aboard the Concorde on the way to London, but that night (1971? 1972?) he was taking care of business, fussing around back stage in his black rimmed glasses and his longish hair and The Band responded with the tightest, no nonsense concert I ever heard. They were great. I figured it was because the boss was in town. On Jan. 22, 1974 I saw The Band on its tour with Bob Dylan. What I remember most about that concert was that Dylan opened the show with "Most Likely You Go Your Way and I Go Mine" and closed with a different version of the same song. I remember it being a good show, though both Dylan and the members of The Band remember that whole tour as dispirited and unhappy. I don remember the details. Drugs might have been involved. I was 24 years old in 1968 and my world was angry, noisy and confusing and things would get worse before they got better. The Manson murders and Woodstock (both in August 1969) and the Rolling Stones grim Altamont concert (December 1969) were in the future.
A psychiatrist and a long hospital stay were in my future because 1969 was when I finally decided to save myself rather than keep sloshing around in my own private cesspool. And through it all, even in the worst of times, I could count on the voice of Levon Helm and the music of The Band to carry me to a refuge and a resting place. I still listen.
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