Planet Waves FM :: Levon Helm, Singer for The Band, Returns to the Earth

One of the most memorable voices in rock music is gone — Levon Helm, the Arkansas-born drummer and mandolin player for The Band. He died of throat cancer, which he’d been battling since the late 1990s.

Levon Helm performing in 2004 on the Village Green in Woodstock, New York. Photo by Jaime Martorano.

Levon Helm performing in 2004 on the Village Green in Woodstock, New York. Photo by Jaime Martorano.

Helm was the lead vocalist on some of The Band’s most memorable songs: “The Weight,” “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” and “Up On Cripple Creek.” Helm was the one American in an otherwise Canadian emsemble.

His wife and daughter said in a statement Tuesday that Helm was “in the final stages of his battle with cancer,” and requested the prayers of his fans. He died early Thursday afternoon in New York City, after a hospital stay in Kingston, NY. He died about two hours after the Sun entered Taurus.

Helm was a Gemini, with a lot of Taurus to back it up. That takes the clear, flexible quality of Gemini and puts substance behind it. He had a chart similar to his former bandmate Bob Dylan.

I’ve noticed something about Gemini musicians — they are gifted musical shapeshifters, whether that means playing many instruments, being able to blend into any style they want, or being gifted session players. Helm was all of the above, and he played drums, percussion, mandolin, banjo and harmonica — in addition to being what one writer described as the Voice of America.

When I cast his noon chart — his birth time is not available — it came out with Virgo rising, and Ceres, an agriculture goddess, is rising immediately in the east. He grew up on a farm, and his last two albums were Dirt Farmer and Electric Dirt. He sang the famous line, “I swear by the mud below my feet.” Ceres was indeed his goddess. He passed that forward many ways, including by supporting farmers themselves and the 4-H Club.

Helm had an Aquarius Moon, and in many ways his life was about groups. He was in many bands, then for the past 15 years, he held gatherings called Midnight Rambles at his barn in Woodstock, NY. The events were fundraisers to help pay his medical bills. That to me is the best argument for universal health care that I’ve heard all day.

Noon chart for Levon Helm has Virgo rising with Ceres, a goddess of agriculture, in the ascendant. This describes Helm's passion for farmers and his love of the Earth.

Noon chart for Levon Helm has Virgo rising with Ceres, a goddess of agriculture, in the ascendant. This describes Helm's passion for farmers and his love of the Earth.

Helm had Venus, Mars and Chiron in Cancer, giving his voice a warm sensation that went beyond ‘folksy’ into an emotional poignancy that felt like he was singing across the ages. In “The Weight,” he delivers the mysterious lyrics in such a sensitive, straightforward way that you don’t notice anything strange is going on — until you listen carefully. You can hear two renditions of “The Weight” here, and read an article about the song that Planet Waves published in 2009.

One New York Times reader commenting on Helm’s obituary wrote, “The way he sang made me feel he was reporting stories he had witnessed or experienced in some other time and place, but in a way that made them seem to come alive again — he could really transmit an immediacy and vibrancy.”

Singer and friend of Planet Waves Rosanne Cash (herself a Gemini with solid Taurus) said she recalls singing “The Weight” with Helm at an American Musical Association event a year or so ago [see video]: “My whole body was tingling throughout the song. I didn’t want it to end. It was like going back in time to revisit some of the searing musical moments that made me want to become a musician. Levon was so sweet, so full of light. … I’m heartbroken he has moved on to ‘find a place where he can lay his head.’ But I hope he found it.”
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Rob Fraboni, who worked for 10 years as The Band’s sound engineer, recently gave an interview on Planet Waves, telling many stories from their career. You can listen to that here. Here is a New York Times picture gallery honoring Levon.

Eric Francis

About Eric Francis

Planet Waves began in 1998 as the home of the Eric Francis horoscope, a prominent feature in our premium service. Going far beyond what most Sun-sign astrologers even dream is possible, Eric brings in-depth interpretations to his work. He is a pioneer in the newly-discovered planets, including Chiron and the centaurs, and is able to translate their movements into accessible human terms, offering ideas for life, love and work. Discover a whole new world of literary journalism in Planet Waves. We offer free trial subscriptions, discounts for students and seniors, and gift subscriptions for veterans and those on active military duty.
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8 Responses to Planet Waves FM :: Levon Helm, Singer for The Band, Returns to the Earth

  1. Jane says:

    Gotta love that Venus in Cancer for the tender heart,the homespun tunes and the overall sweetness of the man–

  2. Lizzy Huffy says:

    Just came across this wonderful interview with the Band, first published in Rolling Stone magazine in August 1968.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/musicblog/2012/apr/24/levon-helm-interview-band

  3. Len Wallick Len Wallick says:

    Eric: Thank you for a fitting tribute. As you eloquently point out (and as Roseanne Cash implied), this fellow was the real deal. Notice the Nessus square Pluto and Pholus at the North Bending opposing Chiron at the south bending he lived The Weight. Levon had tasted the fruit of pain and his authentic art was our harvest. For that we are grateful.

  4. Patty says:

    Bob Dylan, John Foggerty (Creedence Clearwater), Johnny Depp, Brian Wilson (Beach Boys) – all very unique artists. Johnny Depp not so much a musician, but that’s how he started and he certainly fits in. They are all wonderful and amazing and the weirdest people in the room (in a good and amazing way).

  5. Chief Niwots Son Chief Niwots Son says:

    “I gotta go, but my friends can stick around…”

    RIP Levon, godspeed.

  6. Rob44 says:

    Levon truly was the voice of America; a time-traveling channeler of it’s history, mythos, pain and celebration. For a span of literally years one of his songs rang in my mind on a daily basis, like a disembodied angel of history inscribing a timeless teaching on the pages of my heart. “I swear by the mud below my feet.” There has never been a troubador like him, and there never will be. Fare thee well, Levon.

  7. Eric Francis Eric Francis says:

    Add to that Rosanne Cash and Tony Levin (who could blend in with a Ukranian polka band and who plays the ultimate Gemini instrument — the Stick). Planning an article on this for Gemini time — would love to hear other names.

    Jerry Garcia — Saturn in Gemini.

  8. Carrie says:

    “I’ve noticed something about Gemini musicians — they are gifted musical shapeshifters, whether that means playing many instruments, being able to blend into any style they want, or being gifted session players.”

    Yep; two others come to mind: Paul McCartney and Prince. Both Geminis and both extraordinarily talented musicians. RIP Levon. Thanks for writing about him.

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