Through the years I would talk about bad blood in bands on my radio show. Listeners would often respond with, “Why can’t they just get a long?” But really how many of you want to take a long road trip with your ex-wife or ex-husband. That’s what it’s like for them…sometimes. Our video report on Robbie Robertson talking about his rocky relationship with his ex-bandmate Levon Helm.
Robbie Robertson’s Found Resolution with Fellow Band Member Levon Helm
They say if you can’t resolve issues with an other person eventually you have to do it withing yourself. You don’t have to have a former band-mate with hatred towards you to understand the conflict between Robertson and Helm. Just think of any ex lover, for instance, that will never forgive you for whatever you did. I’m not saying Robertson ever really tried to mend fences with Helm but the guitarist visited his old drummer near his death.
CBS Sunday Morning featured an interview with Robertson while promoting his new autobiography ‘Testimony.’ Interestingly the guitarist was having trouble remembering the chords to ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.’ saying, “Yeah, I barely remember it. I haven’t played it since ‘The Last Waltz,’”
The first run of The Band with all it’s core member ran from 1968 until 1977. Splitting up the band was tough on some members especially Helm. Who said, “That don’t make sense, have a big ‘goin’ outta business’ concert.” when talking of ‘The Last Waltz.’ A few years before his death Helm looked back at that famous swan song concert as Robertson’s attempt to celebrate himself. Reporter Anthony Mason finally asked if their rift would ever heal to which Helm answered, “I doubt it. Not as long as he wants to claim everything that The Band ever made, you know?”
Fast forward to today Mason asked if they ever mended fences? Robertson said, “As much as I loved him and admired his extraordinary musical talent, I could not do the bitterness anymore. But when they called me and said, ‘He’s in the hospital, and he’s dying,’ I went right to the hospital, and I sat with him, and I held his hand. I sat there and thought about a lot of the beautiful things that we have been through together. And I was happy for that moment to kind of wash away any dark clouds.”
Robertson reunited with original members Rick Danko and Garth Hudson in 1989 when The Band was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame
In 1994 the three again appeared together for The Band’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Helm did not attend. The drummer was still at odds with Robertson for years over accusations of stolen songwriting credits.
Levon Helm died of cancer on April 19, 2012. He was 71, At 55 Rick Danko passed of heart failure in his sleep on December 10, 1999. Richard Manuel committed suicide after performing with the reformed Band on March 4, 1986. He was only 42. Garth Hudson is now 79 and Robbie Robertson is 73. – by John Beaudin
John Beaudin has been in major market radio (Edmonton, Vancouver & Calgary) for 33 years and a music journalist since 1989. He graduated from Broadcasting school as a news man so he would have the skills to write about the artists that inspired him since he bought his first album, “Madman Across The Water” by Elton John as a teen. In the 80’s Beaudin was the host of the syndicated radio show “The Cross Canada Report” which had two version (Rock and A/C). Beaudin was also asked to be a judge at the Juno Awards (Canada’s answer to the Grammys) Twice. He has anchored every position in radio including morning and afternoon drive and was a Program and Music Director for The Breeze and California 103 in Calgary. He currently hosts the popular Lovesongs at QM-FM in Vancouver.
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