by Arlen Roth
I had the great honor a couple of years ago to do an album with Levon Helm, the late, great drummer for The Band, and also one of the most important singers in the history of rock music. We lost Levon Helm, just a few short months ago to cancer, and this was devastating to all who knew him, and to all in the world of music. Anyone who ever listened to good music, certainly heard Levon’s voice many times, and the classics he sang such as The Night They Drove old Dixie Down, Rag, Mama Rag, The Weight and many more are all true standards among rock and American music aficionados!
The pleasure of recording and working with him on my album Toolin’ Around Woodstock which was in essence a follow-up to my original Toolin’ Around was immeasurable, and the times we spent together were truly priceless. It was so great to see how much he really cared about the songs we were recording, and basically, he was always the last one in the room to be really satisfied with a “take.” It showed me what it was like to play with such a consummate pro, and it made me imagine just what it could’ve been like when all the members of The Band were recording, and what perfectionists they were!
When it came to also being a great singer, bassist and overall songwriter, Rick Danko was really right up there among the greats himself. He had such a unique style, and I had the chance to meet up with him back in my Woodstock days, and to really have some hilarious times. He had a photographic memory, and one time he said he remembered meeting me in a restaurant in Philly seven years earlier, and he even remembered the shirt I was wearing, which was a cowboy shirt I wore for many years during the late ‘60s and early ‘70s! He was taken from us far too young, and he was a truly beloved man and musician!
Richard Manuel also possessed an amazing voice; known more for his falsetto he was an equally strong singer, as well as the main piano player in the band. He also played a lot of drums on some of their stuff too, especially when Levon needed to step out front and play the mandolin.
One cannot ever measure the impact or the greatness this “Band” had, but I can assure you that they were among the most important assemblages of musicians of all time, and their lasting effect on music will always be felt. I feel so honored that I got to do my album with Levon, and that I even got to rub elbows with such greats! May their music live on forever (and it will!)
Gibson.com’s Arlen Roth, affectionately known The King of All Guitar Teachers, is music lesson pioneer and the quintessential guitarist. An accomplished and brilliant musician — and one of the very few who can honestly say he’s done it all — Roth has, over the course of his celebrated 35-year career, played on the world’s grandest stages, accompanied many of the greatest figures in modern music and revolutionized the concept of teaching guitar.
Article courtesy of Gibson
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