April 23rd, 2012
04:54 PM ET
Over the weekend, artists paid tribute to The Band’s Levon Helm at the 8th annual Wanee Music Festival at the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, Florida.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer was 71 when he died on Thursday. Hours later, Hot Tuna – featuring fellow Rock Hall members Jack Casady and Jorma Kaukonen – performed “I Am the Light of This World” and “99 Year Blues” in honor of Helm, kicking off a number of notable performances in his memory.
The next day, under a bright noonday sun, Bruce Hornsby sang a moving rendition of “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” which was made famous by Helm and The Band in 1969. Hornsby followed this up with his original classic “The Way It Is.”
Later on Friday, The Allman Brothers Band – who host and headline Wanee – belted out a trilogy of songs by The Band, starting with “It Makes No Difference.”
Next came a rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Blind Willie McTell,” which was recorded by The Band and released in 1993 for the album “Jericho.” It would become a Helm favorite to play live.
The Allman’s trilogy concluded with a powerful performance of “The Weight,” which featured a number of special guests, including 2012 Grammy winner Susan Tedeschi and the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir.
Unfortunately, Saturday brought torrential downpours to the stages at Wanee, with the worst of the weather cutting off Gov’t Mule’s tribute of “The Shape I’m In.” As rain poured from the sky and thunder filled the air, Mule’s rocking rendition of the 1970 single by The Band stopped abruptly as it no longer became possible for the performers to continue.
With clearer skies, the festival ended at two in the morning Sunday when the North Mississippi Allstars began their encore with an instrumental guitar jam that seemed to include elements of Allman Brothers’ classics “Blue Sky” and “Jessica.”
Before kicking into the tune, Luther Dickinson told the crowd that it was dedicated to former Allman Brothers Band member Dickey Betts, late members Duane Allman and Berry Oakley, and also for Levon Helm, making it a rather all-encompassing and fitting end to a weekend of good music and good memories.
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