On The Passing Of Levon Helm

Along with music fans around the world, I mourn the April 19 passing of the great drummer and singer Levon Helm. His was a special talent: the ability to bring unequivocal honesty to every note that he sang and every beat that he played. That talent was a major ingredient in the success of The Band, the stellar roots-rock group whose repertoire included the Levon-sung classics “The Weight,” “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” and “Up On Cripple Creek.”

Later in his life Levon delved even deeper into the historic roots of American music. He won a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Album for his 2007 studio album, Dirt Farmer, and his 2010 album Electric Dirt won the first-ever Grammy for Best Americana Album. He followed his win in 2011 by taking home the same award for his live album, Ramble at the Ryman.

Levon had an affinity for Gretsch drums throughout his career, and I’m proud to say that he became an official Gretsch artist a few years ago. Whether behind those drums or behind a microphone, Levon Helm was immediately identifiable and totally unmistakable. I’m saddened by his passing, but I celebrate his life and his unique contributions to American music.

Fred W. Gretsch

Levon Helm

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