Happy Birthday Levon Helm: Listen To The Band Rehearse For ‘Rock Of Ages’ Concerts

By Nate Todd May 26, 2021 1:37 pm PDT

Today marks what would have been Levon Helm’s 81st birthday. Helm sadly died on April 19, 2012 from complications due to throat cancer. The beloved drummer, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist for The Band was born Mark Lavon Helm on May 26, 1940 in Elaine, Arkansas. Helm would go on to co-found The Band in 1967 along with guitarist Robbie Robertson, bassist Rick Danko, pianist Richard Manuel and keyboardist Garth Hudson.

After releasing a trio of landmark albums beginning with their stellar 1968 debut Music From The Big Pink, a self-titled album in 1969 and Stage Fright in 1970, The Band convened in early 1971 to begin work on what would become the Cahoots LP. The group recruited the late great Allen Toussaint to provide horn arrangements for a five-piece horn section to inject a new sound into their fourth studio album.

Later that year, The Band got together to rehearse for an upcoming four-night New Year’s Eve run at the Academy of Music in New York City, which was captured for posterity in the 1972 live album, Rock Of Ages. The rehearsals for the shows at Ultrasonic Studios in Hempstead, New York once again saw The Band inviting Toussaint and the horn section to collaborate.

Those rehearsals were also captured for posterity and feature Helm leading The Band through classics like “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” “The W.S. Walcott Medicine Show,” and “Life Is A Carnival.” The recording closes out with one of Levon’s signature songs, “Rag Mama Rag.”

In honor of Levon Helm’s birthday, listen to The Band rehearse for their Rock Of Ages concerts in 1971 below:

Rehearsal Tracklist:

  1. The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down
  2. Across the Great Divide (take 1)
  3. The W.S. Walcott Medicine Show (take 1)
  4. The W.S. Walcott Medicine Show (take 2)
  5. Life Is A Carnival (take 1)
  6. Life Is A Carnival (take 2)
  7. Across the Great Divide (take 2)
  8. Unfaithful Servant
  9. Chest Fever
  10. Rag Mama Rag (take 1)
  11. Rag Mama Rag (take 2)
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