This past week, we lost a legend in the music world, Mark Lavon “Levon” Helm. He grew up in Turkey Scratch, Arkansas. He was the son of cotton farmers, who blossomed into a musical genius.
When I was in the Army, I had a roommate in the barracks who had a high powered stereo (I can’t remember what kind) with a pair of Cerwin-Vega speakers. He had one of Levon’s first solo albums and I would swear he played it everyday, once for breakfast and once before bed. (And maybe, a few times in between.)
Helm was an artist whose voice was not overly great as far as trained voices go, but it was unique and always was good enough to be part of a masterful musical presentation that was also down to earth and homey. His topics were versatile, and usually spiritual in nature. Put a Levon Helm song on and I can always tell it’s him within a line or two, if not by the musical intro.
He fought throat cancer for around 14 years. In 2009, he must have had some idea that his journey would end with sadness for those he left behind and that’s why I think he recorded this song. It’s not his. But the very fact he recorded it says a lot about the way he wanted people to take the news of his passing, when it did happen. The title sounds sad, but the melody sounds bright, cheerful, and victorious.