Thursday, May 27, 2010

Levon Helm Birthday Week

Not only is it Bob Dylan Birthday Week, but as one faithful reader reminded me today, its also Levon Helm Birthday Week!  Former drummer extraordinaire for The Band, he celebrated his 70th birthday yesterday, May 26th.  On Sunday June 4th, about 20 miles from his home in Woodstock, Levon will be performing on Hunter Mountain for the 4th annual Mountain Jam Festival where his current band will close out the last day of the event with a set labeled as Helm's 70th Birthday Jubilee.  The performance is scheduled to include special guests Warren Haynes, Donald Fagen, David and Patterson Hood, Sam Bush, Ray LaMontagne, Steve Earl, and Jackie Greene.

To celebrate his birthday here on The Weight, we bring you a video capturing one of my favorite Levon-sung tunes, The Band's live take on "Don't Do It" from December 1971 at the Academy of Music in NYC.

"Don't Do It", while being famous amongst fans of The Band as being the song to close The Last Waltz (and open the Scorsese-directed film), is known by fewer as a cover of a Marvin Gaye track officially titled "Baby Don't You Do It" penned by legendary Motown writers Holland–Dozier–Holland.  It was released in 1964 and features Hitsville USA musicians the Funk Brothers.  If you did know that "Don't Do It" was a Marvin Gaye cover, you've likely not heard the original version.  Take a listen here:

OK.  So let's say you knew about the Marvin Gaye version and you've even heard it before, did you know that The Who recorded and released the song in the Summer of 1972 as the B-side to 'Join Together'?

Honorable mention goes to versions of the song by The Small Faces and The Black Crowes.

Which version is your favorite?:


ak said...

What a great comparison. I know The Band gets so much cred for their re-re-invention of the Americana genre, but to me, they are at their best as a white-boy Motown Rhythm and Blues band. And this track, along with "lovin' you has made my life sweeter than ever" really shows that off. (you can kinda say the same thing about the Who as well, especially, given their cover of DYDI)

I think in the Last Waltz, or perhaps in the dvd commentary, someone says, and i'm paraphrasing, -we were just trying to imitate the Staple Singers-

man...thank the lord for the staple singers.

welcome back Weight

also, that mountain jam levon jubilee will be awesome.


WeightStaff said...

I love learning new stuff on my own website. Thanks for the post. Love this tune and happy bday Levon!


ak said...


but on a lighter note...Felice Brothers have been opening for dave matthews band. perhaps this will "take them to the next level."