Levon: From Down in the Delta to the Birth of The Band and Beyond

Diversion. Jun. 2020. 400p. ISBN 9781635767049. $28.99. MUSIC
For this full-length biography of musician and actor Levon Helm (1940–2012), Tooze (Muddy Waters) relies on extensive interviews with her subject and his friends and family, tracking his life from his upbringing in Turkey Scratch, AR, and his stint with Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks. The author follows the Hawks’ various line ups until they coalesced with drummer Helm, guitarist Robbie Robertson, bassist Rick Danko, and keyboardists Garth Hudson and Richard Manuel. The group split with Hawkins, backed singer Bob Dylan, and rose to stardom as The Band, which ironically embodied Americana despite the Canadian backgrounds of all members except Helm. After describing Helm’s growing animosity toward Robertson and the breakup of The Band, Tooze outlines Helm’s solo albums, his acting career, the reformation of The Band without Robertson, and the drummer’s death from throat cancer.
VERDICT This meticulously researched book offers music fans a thorough introduction and adds to current material, including Helm’s autobiography This Wheel’s on Fire, Barney Hoskyns’s Across the Great Divide, and the film Ain’t in It for My Health.
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