I didn’t realize at the time that the fast-talking director was Martin Scorcese, and I loved The Last Waltz from its very first frame.
The Dream Team of guest performers is so impressive it’s hard to believe that they all got together on a single stage (They actually did this in the documentary’s final number.).
Eric Clapton practicing his virtuosity on the guitar. Muddy Waters’ unforgettable “Well, a well, a well,” as the sweat poured off of him while he was bellowing about being a man-child. A coked up Neil Young, in a bitter irony, singing “Helpless” with Joni Mitchell as he tries, yes, helplessly, to strum his guitar.
This is all without saying anything about Bob Dylan’s coming on stage to close the show with the ensemble version of “I shall be released.”
Robbie Robertson’s lidded eyes, guile and charm drive the Band’s enormously entertaining interviews, and, in the many times I’ve seen the film, one of my favorites has to be Levon Helm.
The Arkansas native played drums and brought his soulful, country-inflected tones to songs throughout the film-a production he almost immediately repudiated-like “Ophelia,” “Up on Cripple Creek,” “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” and “The Weight.”
Helm died last month after a lengthy battle with cancer-an event that sparked this opening paragraph of a tribute from Chicago Tribune music critic Greg Kot:
“Levon Helm was the rarest of musical multi-taskers: an unflappable drummer and a singer who wrung soul out of every note. He also was a terrific team player and bandmate; he made the people around him sound good.”
Kot is not the only one impressed by Helm’s talents and contributions.
None other than the Boss, Bruce Springsteen, tipped his hat in words and deeds to Helm in his first-ever concert in Newark, New Jersey last night.
It’s always a treat to see one legend honor another.
I hope you enjoy the clip.