Having spent the better part of three years thinking and writing about Levon Helm, I have inevitably also devoted a lot of thought to The Weight, the mournful, elegiac, mysterious, inscrutable song written by Robbie Robertson and made famous by The Band. Somehow over the years, it evolved from a simple if elusive pop song to an existential hymn. Imbued by the grace that radiated from Levon as he stoically faced the struggles of his final decade, the song has acquired a larger dimension. In singing it, out loud and usually in company, we embrace the song’s lesson: to to accept the weight, to carry it without self-pity or terror, but with joy. In this list, many, many artists offer themselves to the song; it’s q quite beautiful to grasp that it has come to mean so much.
1.The Band at Woodstock
2. Easy Rider
3.The Staples Singers
4. The Grateful Dead
5.Levon Helm and Richie Havens
6. The Wallflowers and Eric Clapton
7. Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White
9. Emmylou Harris and friends
10. The Decoys
11. Warren Haynes and Dr. John
12. Grant Lee Philipd and Avid McMullin
13. Trampled by Turtles
14. The Band at the Isle of Wight Festival
15. Gillian Welch and the Old Crow Medicine Show
16. Bruce Springsteen
17. The Punch Brothers
18. Waylon Jennings
19. Little Feat
20. Mavis Staples, Nick Lowe and Wilco in rehearsal
21. Mavis Staples, Nick Lowe and Wilco performance
22. Eddie from Ohio
23. Train, Gavin DeGraw et al
24. Mad Driving Barons
25. Mumford and Sons
26. Black Keys and John Fogarty
27. The Levon Helm Band at the Ryman
28. The Ringo Starr All-Starr Band
29. The Band at the New Orleans Jazz Festival
30. Jimmie Barnes
31. Tragically Hip and Kathleen Edwards
32. Jensen Ackles
33. Uncle Tupelo
34. The Lumineers
35. The Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers
36. Aretha Franklin
37. James Maddock and Willie Nile
38. Lee Anne Womack
39. Brian Fallon of Gaslight Anthem
40. Levon Helm, John Anderson, Vasser Clements
41. Cheers Elephant
42. A Group Called Smith
43. James Dieffenbach and the Duke’s Men
44. Levon Helm and Elvis Costello
45. The Band on Letterman
46. Sue Cunningham et al
47. At Merlefest
48. Conan O’brien
49. King Curtis
51. Levon Helm and Wilco
52. The Fundamentals
53. Nic Mingie
55. Panic in the disco
56. Mumford et al
57. Allman, Weir, Tedeschi
58. The Band and clapton
59. Bucket List
60. Half Dead Music
61. Mavis Staples and Billy Bragg
62. Levon Helm, John Hiatt, Mark Colie
63. The Chambers Bros
64. Spooky Tooth
65. The Levon Helm Band and the Black Crows
67. Eddie Vedder
68. The River and the Road & Dogwood and Dahlia
69. The Last Waltz Revisted
70. Jim James and the Levon Helm Band
73. Bob Dylan, Jeff Tweedy et al on the 2013 Americanarama Tour
74. The Band The Last Waltz
75. Love for Levon finale
76. The Grammy Awards tribute
77A. Gentlemen of the Road
77B. The Levon Helm Band
“JOHNNY CARSON by Henry Bushkin (Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). That rare celebrity tell-all by an author who knows whom and what he’s talking about. Perhaps Mr. Bushkin, a young lawyer in 1970, should have wondered why a huge star like Carson would recruit him and make him a confidant, tennis partner, drinking buddy and more, but he didn’t understand Hollywood’s pecking order — or what yes-men and enablers are for. Undoubtedly self-serving, this book is still a close look at how show business power corrupts, and it is thoroughly credible. You may be shocked by Mr. Bushkin’s treachery or by Carson’s capricious cruelty. Still, this is the dishiest read of the year.”
Meanwhile, in its December 30 issue, People magazine named Johnny Carson its sixth best book of the year. “The fascinating, philandering, fiercely private star comes alive in Bushkin’s bio.”
On December 18, Fox News reported that the U.S. Army War College in Pennsylvania is considering removing prints that depict Robert E. Lee and other Confederate generals after at least one official questioned why the school honors those who fought against America. The college is currently conducting an inventory of its paintings and photographs, and to categorize them. “There will be change: over the years very fine artwork has been hung with care – but little rationale or overall purpose,” US Army Major General Tony Cucolo, the commandant of the college, said in a statement posted on the school’s website Wednesday afternoon. “I will… approach our historical narrative with keen awareness and adherence to the seriousness of several things: accurate capture of US military history, good, bad and ugly; a Soldier’s life of selfless service to our Nation; and our collective solemn oath to defend the Constitution of the United States (not a person or a symbol, but a body of ideals),” he added. “Those are the things I will be looking to reinforce with any changes to the artwork.
College Spokeswoman Carol Kerr told the newspaper that at least one official — who was not identified – asked the administration why the school honors generals that were enemies of the U.S. Army. “There will be a dialogue when we develop the idea of what do we want the hallway to represent,” she said. “[Lee] was certainly not good for the nation. This is the guy we faced on the battlefield whose entire purpose in life was to destroy the nation as it was then conceived.”
So far, this sounds like a step in the right direction.
Last night on 60 Minutes (December 1st) Amazon chief Jeff Bezos said the company is testing delivering packages using drones. The idea would be to deliver packages as quickly as possible using the small, unmanned aircraft, through a service the company is calling Prime Air, the CEO said.
This idea will never happen, of course. Millions of drones swooping above your head? Occasionally falling out of the sky?
Earlier this year, Bezos bought The Washington Post, committing himself to figuring out how to make intelligent news reporting a profitable concern in the years to come. I don’t know which will prove more daunting: trying to get people to apy what they have learned in the last decade to steal, or how to fly drones around without banging into telephone lines, dogs, and ;et’s face, the 50 million other drones that will darken our skies as soon as this thing gets off the ground.
If Bezos really wants to be a giant killer, he needs to find a bigger target. I suggest that he design a new democratic government. Our institutions are fundamentally broken, corrupted by money, and totally out of date with what we the people today value.
Look at Bezos’ company. Amazon. Now that is a company completely in tune with what we value now: choice, selection, service, low cost, efficiency. Amazon is dedicated to the proposition that people should get what they want. They are so dedicated, they are looking at drones.
Now, the government is not in the same business as Amazon. For one thing, if you can’t get what you want at Amazon, it’s not likely that amazon will be held to blame. It’s either not avoidable, or you can’t afford it. If you can’t get something from the government that you want, you’ve got a lot of people you can blame. Assigning and avoiding blame has become the real business of government, not helping people get what they want. Today we value results. Congress is in the business of delivering results to a chosen few.
We no longer live in a Madsionian world, and the Madisonian checks and balances no longer prevent the usurpation of government, but abet it. You wonder why Congress has an eight percent approval rating? It’s because they’ve earned it.
The writer Penelope Green once used the term “our set’’ to describe all of us who came up together in the early eighties, and I knew exactly what she meant. Whether we were at Spy or The New York Observer or 7 Days or Wig Wag or one of the established magazines, we were all members of the Class of the Mid Eighties, and we watched what each other did like hawks..
It’s kind of amazing that during the whole of our coeval life and work spans, I met Peter Kaplan, one of the star performers of our set, only a small handful of times. I have to believe that was by mutual choice; Peter, who died on November 29th, was an exuberant type, but he ran Manhattan Inc. and the Observer, he never gave me any assignments nor accepted any of my pitches, and I have to assume that was simply because he didn’t like my act. Fair enough. Enough other people did. And apparently he liked plenty of other people’s stuff. Their remembrances of his special grace made that seem as though that his enthusiasm was one of the great beneficences a writer could know.
One of the earliest times I met him was in 1983 or 1984, when he was helping Jane Amsterdam run Manhattan Inc., and I went to see him. I don’t remember a great deal about that meeting, except that he wasn’t buying what I was selling, and worse, that maybe the whole meeting was just a courtesy to our mutual pal Sam Campbell, and that Peter didn’t expect ever to have an interest in me. But at some point in our talk, he began to enthuse over an article he had read, a piece that probably ran in his magazine, about a real estate developer. The developer was an unpolished Jewish businessman, probably around seventy, who along with his properties ran an import business. Peter read from the piece to me, stressing a quote from the developer in which he offered the visiting reporter some of his imported goods. “Have a Havana,’’ the gruff, garrolous businessman said, “and a banana.’’
Peter repeated that line three or four times, chortling louder each time. “Have a Havana, and a banana.’’ He loved it, but it was a dog’s whistle to me. I just didn’t hear it.
And then, some years later, I did.
Our industry is shattered, our craft is disappearing, and now our set has begun to die.
On November 26, Pope Francis framed as a call for Catholics to embrace a new evangelization. Prominent among his remarks was this stinging critique of the inequality tolerated by western capitalism. Said the Pope::
Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.
Trickle-down economics and market worship are slammed:
In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting…. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules.
It was fascinating, in the aftermath, to watch the right try to avoid what the Pope said. One guy said he agreed with the Pope’s attack on materialism. That’s not what the man said.
Rob Ford has been thrown out of a Toronto Maple Leafs hockey game for being drunk and belligerent. He groped a female politician at a fund-raiser for a Jewish community group, and was asked to stop coaching a high school football team after having a violent confrontation with one of the players. He has admitted to drinking too much. But until Tuesday, Rob Ford, the mayor of multicultural, eco-conscious, politically correct Toronto, had vehemently denied a persistent report about a video that showed him smoking crack cocaine.
“You asked me a question back in May and you can repeat that question,” Mr. Ford told a crush of journalists, photographers and camera operators. “Yes, I have smoked crack cocaine. But no, do I, am I an addict? No. Have I tried it? Probably in one of my drunken stupors, probably approximately about a year ago.”
During his brief, impromptu news conference outside his City Hall office, Mr. Ford, 44, insisted that he had not been lying since May, when he first denied reports that he had used crack. At that time, the blog Gawker and The Toronto Star both said their reporters had seen a video from a man trying to sell it that apparently showed the mayor inhaling from a crack pipe and making homophobic remarks about another politician. . . .“I wasn’t lying; you didn’t ask the correct questions,” Mr. Ford said Tuesday. “No, I’m not an addict and no, I do not do drugs. I made mistakes in the past and all I can do is apologize, but it is what it is.” — Ian Austen, The New York Times, November 5, 2013
Probably in one of my drunken stupors?
Among this year’s projects, coffee table books for The New York Times, Life and Time, as well as The Book of Levon. All four titles are available in print or electronically from Amazon, except The Book of Levon, which is available in print from lulu.com Trat you rafmily, treat your froends, treat yourself.