LoveforLevon.comLove for Levon, the star-studded tribute concert for late Band singer/drummer Levon Helm, takes place tonight at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey. An impressive collection of acclaimed artists from various areas of the music world are slated to be on hand to honor Helm, including Roger Waters, Gregg Allman, Joe Walsh, founding Band keyboardist Garth Hudson, Hot Tuna/ex-Jefferson Airplane guitarist Jorma Kaukonen, pop/blues star John Mayer, gospel/soul great Mavis Staples and Allman Brothers Band guitarist Warren Haynes.
More than paying homage to the influential musician, who died in April at age 71 after a long battle with cancer, the event will raise money to help Helm's family maintain ownership of his barn and studios in Woodstock, New York. The venue is the site of the ongoing Midnight Ramble sessions, intimate shows that feature various guest musicians performing alongside Helm's longtime backing group.
Two guest performers on the Love for Levon bill, Walsh and Kaukonen, chatted recently with ABC News Radio about the concert, their relationship with Helm and their respect for him as an artist.
Walsh says he's "really excited" to perform at the show. "I can't wait," he tells ABC News Radio. "There'll be a bunch of people and we all love Levon, and we all love that music. So, it'll be a chance to play with some people I don't normally get to play with."
The longtime Eagles guitarist, who became friends with Helm when they were both members of Ringo Starr's first All Starr Band, describes Levon as "very humble, very straight across. If he liked you, he'd do anything for you."
As for Helm's musicianship, Walsh notes, "When you tell other drummers what you want them to kind of play on a song, one way to tell them would be, 'Play it more Levon Helm,' and they would know what that meant. That's how powerful he was."
Kaukonen, meanwhile, worked with Helm on a couple of projects over the years, the most recent being his own 2009 solo album, River of Time. He points out that a look at the Love for Levon bill will give people an idea of just how far Helm's influence reached.
"I consider myself one of the lesser luminaries in the lineup, because there's a lot of really big stars," he points out. "I mean, think of Roger Waters, John Mayer. I think it is so amazing that Levon has brought so many people [together] from so many different corners of the musical popular universe that were still touched by his music."
He adds, "It is such an eclectic group of people, but our common bond [is] love for Lee's music. And I find that almost beyond words."
Describing the quality of Helm's music, both with The Band and as a solo artist, Kaukonen notes, "There is nothing like it before he did it, and, in a way, there's nobody else who's ever done anything like that [since] either…It just seems like it's a part of our cultural and social history. I mean, you almost can't imagine music without Levon's music."
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