Tag Archives: Levon Helm

Movie Wisdom – Levon Helm Edition

7 Apr

Last night, I was flipping through the channels and stopped on a movie called In the Electric Mist. Tommy Lee Jones plays a Louisiana detective who is trying to catch a serial killer. Along the way, he runs into some great actors.

John Goodman

Mary Steenburgen

Ned Beatty

It was surprising to see such performers in what I would consider a B Movie. I kept thinking that it was an excuse for a bunch of friends to get together and have fun in New Orleans.

It was also surprising to see a couple of famous musicians in the movie. Namely, Buddy Guy and Levon Helm, who played a ghostly character.

As I watched the movie, I thought about a post that I wrote about Levon Helm. It would be great if you read it. That post is about his music, but it is also about his movies. In the Electric Mist was the last one in which he appeared.

It has been a long time since I wrote a Movie Wisdom post. Now, it is a good time to discover the words of wisdom that can be found in the movies of Levon Helm.Levon Helm

From Coal Miner’s Daughter

I thought “horny” meant cuttin’ up and acting silly!

What we got to do next is figure out what to do next.

From The Right Stuff

No bucks, no Buck Rodgers.

From Shooter

Sometimes to catch a wolf you need to tie the bait to a tree.

From In the Electric Mist

Venal and evil men are destroying the world you were born in.

Don’t compromise your principles or abandon your cause.

There’s two ways of looking at the idea of understanding. One is if you don’t look you never will see. And the other is, if you look a little less you’ll understand a hell of a lot more.

A Blue Jay don’t sit on a Mocking Bird’s nest. The Mocking Bird will whoop the Blue Jay’s ass every time.

Honors for the Deceased

13 Feb

Awards shows are not high on my viewing agenda. However, I like the times when they show people from their respective entertainment industries who died during the past year. It probably sounds morbid, but it brings back memories of watching or listening to them. It also introduces people who made huge impacts behind the scenes. I don’t know what it is. I just like it.

This week, the Grammy Awards took time with its annual roll call. It included several people who made an impact in Nashville – close to where I live. There was Patti Page, who gained fame with The Tennessee Waltz, and other people who worked on Music Row. The roll call also included two of my favorites who I have written about before.

Andy Griffith was famous for being a comedian and television icon, but he was also an accomplished musician and singer.Andy Griffith Guitar

Levon Helm was famous for being the drummer for The Band, where he was also lead vocal on many of their most popular songs. He was also in a couple of cool movies.The Right Stuff

There were a lot of other people honored in the Roll Call, but it came to a close with an all star rendition of The Weight, one of Helm’s greatest songs.

Levon Helm

29 Sep

The latest edition of American Songwriter has a great story about the late Levon Helm, which made me purchase my first ever copy.

Like a lot of other people, I read about Helm’s passing earlier this year, and, for some reason, it struck me enough to read more about who he was. As it turns out, I knew all about him before I knew about him. Doesn’t make sense? Then, I’ll put it this way. I had been enjoying the talents of Levon Helm all of my life and never realized it.

To me, the most entertaining songs are the ones that tell a story and allow me to direct a scene in my mind. Two songs that attracted my attention as a kid were performed by The Band and, unknown to me at the time, sung by Helm. One was “The Weight“, with lyrics that took me into a world that was just a little different from the real one. My favorite part went:

I picked up my bag and I went lookin’ for a place to hide

When I saw Carmen and the Devil walkin’ side by side

And I said, “Hey, Carmen, come on, would you go downtown”

And she said, “Well, I gotta go but my friend can stick around”

The entire song is great, but that line always stuck with me. The Band also performed “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down“, a song about the destruction caused by the Civil War. Maybe, it’s because I live in the South. Maybe, it’s because I am a historian. But, I agree with the magazine article that this song should be played for every class about the Civil War. It is a haunting song with lines like:

Back with my wife in Tennessee, when one day she called to me

“Virgil, quick, come see, there go the Robert E. Lee”

Now I don’t mind choppin’ wood, and I don’t care if the money’s no good

Ya take what ya need and ya leave the rest

But they should never have taken the very best.

As I read about Helm’s career, I realized that there was one thing I needed to do to honor him. I had to see The Last Waltz, the movie about the last concert of The Band that is considered to be the greatest concert film ever made. Luckily, the Belcourt, Nashville’s historic theater, was going to give me the opportunity. As the movie played, I realized a couple of things. Helm was the soul of The Band, and Robbie Robertson thought he was the soul of The Band. The movie focused on Robertson and missed the real story. No wonder the two men never got along after its filming.

But, here’s the thing. I had seen Helm in movies before and never realized it. I have seen The Right Stuff numerous times and never realized that he narrated the movie and played Jack Ridley, the best friend of Chuck Yeager.

He also play Mr. Rate in Shooter, a movie where Mark Wahlberg is framed for the assassination of the president. I know that it sounds dumb on the surface. However, I promise that it is good, Helm plays in the most memorable scene.

As I wrote, I knew Levon Helm before I really knew him. He sang some of my favorite songs, and he acted in some of my favorite movies. It was only after his death that I realized that he was more than a singer and an actor. He was the foundation of one of the greatest bands ever assembled. His talent altered music. In short, he was Levon.