LEVON HELM SINGS FOR THE ANGELS
By Doc Lawrence
But it will always be “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” that keeps Levon Helm’s mournful voice in that special part of my being where the funeral hymns of my mother, grandparents and Confederate ancestors (not far removed) resonate: “Rock of Ages,” “I’ll Fly Away,” and “Precious Lord, Take my Hand.” Levon became Virgil Cain, a Southern man who lost everything. Few have fallen into the abyss of war and the horrors of killing, defeat, humiliation and starvation. Levon Helm connected me with those spirits. He wailed and my soul ached.
The South is America’s Ireland. The accents, traditional dances, incredible food and folk art soon will be absorbed and homogenized by popular culture and this country will lose some critical mass. Levon Helm may not have been the last voice of the South, but he was one of the few who could make the claim. A verse from “Atlantic City” hints that beyond despair and misfortune, noble spirits and universal truths linger. You can feel it in the breeze late at night.
“Now our luck may have died and our love may be cold
But with you forever I’ll stay
We’re going out where the sands turnin’ to gold
Put on your stockins baby, ‘cause the nights getting cold
And maybe everything dies, baby, that’s a fact
But maybe everything that dies someday comes back.”