The Band drummer and singer Levon Helm is known for his open and sometimes bitter diatribes against fellow band-mates
Levon Helm accused lead guitarist Robbie Robertson of stealing the copyright for the songs Robertson registered in his own name.
He also said that working for Dylan was being like an employee and must musicians would agree with him.
The Band was meant to break to the mold on bands with leaders. Except Robertson and Garth Hudson, three band members sang lead and they all switched instruments. It was the 60s model of egalitarian life – The Band not Robbie Robertson’s band.
“Up on Cripple Creek”, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” and the rest of the Arkansas swamp rock they played came from Helm’s psyche not Robertson who came from Brantford Ontario.
The rock and roll lifestyle of drugs and alcohol lulled The Band members into trusting Robertson who said he wrote the material. The fact that the songs reflect Levon Helm’s southern US experience and not Robertson’s is the biggest clue Levon is telling the truth. Robertson never wrote anything of lasting value afterward that indicates he has any innate songwriting gift.
Helm and the other band members should have stayed sober long enough to protect their legal interests. The money and stardom sought by bands is often what destroys them in the end.
It’s all about Bob
Nobody stays in Dylan’s band forever, except bassist Tony Garnier who has been touring with Dylan for 20 years. Dylan is the centre of the universe, his ego propelling him forward. However, Dylan has at different times sublimated his ego for projects like The Traveling Wilburys.
From Entertainment Daily – “Bob Dylan might have made great music with ‘The Band’, but apparently not all members of the rock group hold high regards for him.”
“Drummer and mandolin wizard Levon Helm said in a recent interview that only Bob used to be the centre of attention whenever the group worked with him.”
“Playing with Bob is a job . . . That kind of a job cuts off anything else,” the New York Post quoted Helm as telling next month’s Relix.
“He added: “When you are playing with Bob, it is all about Bob.”
That’s Levon Helm. He has the vitriol but does he have the facts? He’s just a good old boy, blowing steam.
For more on the acrimony of The Band, see Legacy of the Band.
For Levon’s autobiography, This Wheel’s on Fire: Levon Helm and the Story of the Band is a great read.