The Feud That Just Won’t End: Did Levon Helm’s Wife Keep Robbie Robertson From Participating In Grammys Tribute?

As crazy as it sounds, I held out hope that Robbie Robertson would honor his former band mate Levon Helm at The Grammys last Sunday. You’re probably familiar with the story that Robertson visited his ex-best friend last April while he was on his deathbed. Robbie didn’t attend the funeral and according to Don Imus, a close friend of Levon’s, Helm still held a grudge even after Robertson’s visit. Yet I figured The Grammy tribute would be the perfect time for the guitarist to let bygones be bygones and honor Levon. Sadly, that didn’t happen and if the reason is what a former The Band employee claims, it’s a damn shame.

Jonathan Taplin was The Band’s tour manager starting in 1969. Taplin has gone on to produce films, teach and has worked in finance. In a just-posted blog entry titled “Rhythms of Life,” Taplin discusses his experience during Grammys Weekend. At the end of the post is a sentence that contains the first on-the-record discussion of why Robertson didn’t participate in The Grammys’ tribute to Levon, “As angry as I was that Levon’s wife kept Robbie Robertson off the stage (it’s a long and sad story of paranoia), Zac, Mavis, T Bone and the Mumfords did a wonderful version of ‘The Weight’, which was a fitting end to a great night of Americana.”

If Taplin is to be believed, Sandy Helm kept Robbie from performing on Sunday. We should note that among the people Robertson mentioned as having greeted him at Levon’s bedside last April, there was no mention of Sandy. In Robbie’s note, he did say “My thoughts and prayers are with his wife Sandy.”

Elton John, Zac Brown, Brittany Howard, T Bone… by IdolxMuzic

Back in September Levon Helm Band musical director Larry Campbell and Robbie Robertson spoke, separately,  with American Songwriter about the Robbie/Levon feud and we found Larry’s responses most interesting. He understood why Levon felt the way that he did about Robbie, but admitted Helm was beyond logic in his reasoning. Campbell also discussed the small role Helm played in the songs he co-wrote with him which adds credence to Robertson’s view that he deserved all the songwriting credit.

You won’t find many people that thought Levon would’ve ever ended his feud with Robbie had he not become deathly ill. So there is something to be said for Sandy honoring her man by keeping the grudge going. That said, it sure would’ve been nice to see Robbie get to pay tribute to his old friend and musical collaborator at not only The Grammys but also at last year’s Love For Levon tribute. I look forward to reading what Robertson has to say about the situation in his forthcoming autobiography.

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77 Responses

  1. There is no way those classic Band songs could have been shaped and sounded like they did without (in particular) Levon and Rick input. No question in my mind. Did Robbie write most of the words and provide the basic arrangements? No question in my mind that he was the driving creative force and deserves MOST of the credit. Robbie was a workhorse with a vision; the others were partiers and less organized. BUT they all played a role in birthing that classic sound. Robbie deserves the most money and credit – but the other four should have seen a bit more fair compensation and should have been given SOME ADDITIONAL credit. That said: we miss you Levon. And Robbie: SPEAK OUT BUDDY.

    1. Just wow. I have added melody lines and guitar solos to songs, but that doesn’t make me the song writer. And just listen to Robbie’s “Showdown At Big Sky.” That song sounds like it was written for Rick and Levon to sing, but there is no way they had a hand in it.

      Remember that they were Levon and the Hawks before they became The Band. I think Levon was jealous of Robbie’s becoming de facto leader. Never heard Garth, Richard, or Rick rail against Robbie. Why was that?

      And, as the article points out, Levon’s music director also thought Levon tried to take credit when there was little input. If you tell a story about the fall of the South in the Civil War and I turn around and write lyrics and music about it, should you get songwriting credit? That seems to be what Levon expected.

    2. Garth Hudson was the only member of the band that could read and write music at the time of those songs being written. I don’t know
      if and when the members ever learned but in my opinion there is no way a Canadian could write those songs with that southern style. I don’t care how much either contributed but the ideas that originated those songs came from Levon Helm.

      1. The reason Robbie could write those songs was years, and years of working with and learning from Bob Dylan.

        I will always be amazed at how the first and by far greatest southern rock band was composed 4 out of 5 from Canada.

  2. No levon no band! Hell without any of them No The Band. They arent Vab Halen where you can switch singers. Love the band and Love ALLLLLL MEMBERS

  3. Taplin reposted his thoughts without the reference to Levon’s wife’s actions.

    If you look at the songwriting credits for Big Pink, you will notice that all the different writers got credit. As two of the writers quit writing, it was left to RR to pick up the slack.

  4. Scott,

    In your search for the truth, perhaps best to present the truth. The following 3 statements from the most reliable witnesses are as follows:

    “ Robbie was the one who wrote the lyrics and wrote the music. Wrote the lyrics on legal paper, or whatever he wrote it on, and figured out the chords to the song and dictated the melody and chords to the other players.” – John Simon, the producer to the first two Band albums and someone who should know.

    ”writing with Levon, my experience was, he wasn’t gonna do any labor where writing a song is concerned. The songs we’ve co-written, when it came down to constructing the song, that was my job.” – Larry Campbell.

    ……..and finally, if the above is not enough to end one of the silliest arguments in rock n roll history, what about Levon Helm himself from a 1993 NPR interview: “Well, that was a bit of a distraction. I didn’t think it was quite fair – not that Robbie didn’t do a lot of the songwriting, most of it, in some spots. But at the same time, Richard did some good work, and I always thought that Garth and Rick and myself was there all the way, no matter whose idea the song was or if it was halfway there, or – you know, it was finished….”

    Don’t mean to be curt but it is time responsible journalists started presenting things fairly.



    1. I thought I did present things fairly, including linking to the Larry Campbell piece you reference. I love the music of both musicians and more importantly of The Band. I would’ve liked nothing more than for Levon and Robbie to have buried the hatchet and performed together.

      This was not an article explaining who was right and who was wrong in the Robbie/Levon feud. My aim was to explain why Robbie didn’t play at The Grammys tribute based on the quote from Taplin.

      1. The question always remains- if Levon was so upset about the writing credits, starting probably back in ’68 or ’69, why did he stay with The Band and Robbie through ’76? Why wasn’t this lingering problem worked out long before then?

  5. Indeed…..I was really replying to the article ( Touchy subject…) just below the one that referenced your disappointment with the Grammys in which you stated that we may never know the truth behind Levon’s contention about his being robbed of songwriting credits. We do know the truth. In addition to what I presented, the obvious fact which no one ever seems to reference is – why did Levon not get credit on the Richard songs? Was it only the Robbie ones he feels short changed on? The fact is the Band had two great songwriters….one ( Robbie ) was quite prolific for a time and one ( Richard ) had a short period of superb work but admitted to drying up creatively very early on in the Band’s life.

  6. I just saw the new film on Levon this past Saturday in Woodstock and the audience was treated afterward to a few songs performed live by Amy Helm, Teresa Williams
    and Larry Campbell, followed by a question and answer period. I’m also reading
    Levon’s book ” This Wheel’s on Fire” and 2 weeks ago went to a Midnight Ramble. This issue about the feud was not brought up after the screening and it would have put a damper on the atmosphere. Levon was terrific, loyal to friends, and a generous human being.( We are hoping the Rt. 375 will be renamed after him). The Rambles concept was stroke of genius. The trio is committed to keeping the Rambles going as Levon wanted.There is his legacy: the concept of stewardship with respect to music, the need to preserve the stories of our America, whether it was Band material or written by others, and to have a good time. I urge everyone to go to a Midnight Ramble in Woodstock. The musicians are world class and play for 4 hours.
    When my wife and I left to go home, I wondered ” what hit us?” It was that good, and while we were driving back on Rt. 375, I looked to the left and saw an almost full moon. It was a little after midnight, and it was Easter morning. Godspeed Levon, and thank you.

  7. Robbie Robertson did not hand out sheet music with lyrics when The Band created their magic. Rather, there were lyrics, often modified, and a framework of meter and sound in Robertson’s head. There were also strong collaborators who crafted and polished most Robertson concepts into works of art. Robertson was the heart of The Band’s music but Levon, in particular, and the others were its soul.

    The Last Waltz shows Robbie Robertson for the self-centered, egotistic fake he is. Meanwhile, the other players came off as grateful, humble musicians, thankful for the music, the room, and all the great players who came to the celebration.

  8. This whole feud is interesting and sad, but if Robertson was such a badass he certainly did nothing to stop Levon performing the entire Band catalogue over the years following The Last Waltz.

  9. This is difficult. Just watched the last film made in respect to Levon. He mentions dealing with bankruptcy,this while he is dealing with terminal cancer.
    The problem I have is this.The Band could not have existed as we know it without the voices of Levon,Richard and Rick. They put the soul in Robbie’s songs.
    Where would those tunes have gone without those three voices that are so unique and pure.As with many groups,you have the writer and the others in the band singing those songs.
    You can’t just plug in another singer,as someone else astutely mentioned. Why was Levon having to deal with financial issues ? Robbie could have stepped in and made things right at least on that front.
    Barry Gordy is the worst. Just watch
    “Standing in the Shadows” The Funk Bros. were the rhyth section that gave birth to all the great Motown tunes.
    Look what they got in return. It is beyond sad.
    What could be more important to any loving human being that the idea of being able to help a friend when they need it,with no strings or legal caveats to interfere.
    This is the music business,not Hollywood films we are talking about.
    I assume everyone knows Garth too is in financial straights. Why or rather how could the people that could afford to help with their riches and they hearts just ignore these profoundly sad endings ?

  10. I don’t know how RR can even look in the mirror to be honest.
    It’s like this: Without Bernie Taupin, there really is no Elton John – He exists with all his talents and voice, just like the The Bend members existed each providing a percentage of input to each song. Every arrangement was a The Band arrangement. What RR’s band mates are guilty of is being trusting that their good buddy ol pal RR would give one earthly shit about that once the greasy side of the music business publishers wrote what RR wanted them to write. Had the Band members stepped up at the right time and said “sure RR gets lyrical credit as due, if and when it comes off verbatim as a sole work of art. But not one of their songs is possible without The Band, at least not how they came off. The rest of Thae Band, in the end, just didn’t cover their asses and trusted RR would – they were wrong. The wealth could have been shared. And of course RR would let anyone perform his entire catalogue, since he got royalties every time one was performed. He laughs himself straight to the bank every day, or straight to hell, whatever the case may be.

    Had RR just been some distant song writer writing sheet music and lyrics for a group as a corporate entity, then yes. But that’s not what The Band was, heck, even some of the songs had to be inspired in RR by the vehicle he had to work with, which was “The Band. Is Bernie Taupin richer than Elton John?
    Neither Robbie or any other Band Member was a sole artistic entity unless they made some back room deals with management while the others were too caught up in the road wear.

    RR looked after business, but also made it easy for management by playing with his good friends. By the time they knew what was going on it was too late anyway. It’s sad that RR had to rob his buddies as his end to a means. I love The band for what everyone else loves them for, but RR can rot in hell for what he did to his so called “friends”. He must not have heeded his own words when he wote he saw someone with walkin with the Devil side by side”. He ain’t following the very words he was inspired by Levon’s Father and the whole Southern US to write. Rant over.

    I’m sure Sir Elton has him by at least a few million.

  11. Wait a minute……one MEMBER of the band is a multimillionaire, having gotten there by being a MEMBER of a band. The FOUNDER of the band, the one who first saw the talent present, saw some future in this group of people HE PICKED, is dying and still performing ……SO THE BANK WON’T TAKE HIS HOUSE AWAY……….and that millionaire ( who PROFITED from being chosen for the band). Can’t simply write a check and make the others death……just a bit easier??? really?? This isn’t a question of legalities, it’s a question of just STFU and do THE right thing.

  12. I think there needs to be an arrangement credit. Paul McCartney wrote the base guitar arraignment on Think for Yourself but George Harrison is the sole credit on that song. That is just the way it’s been done.

  13. Is there any evidence that Robbie didn’t write the songs attributed to him? Also, he left the Band in 1976, why does he have a moral responsibility to pay the debts of people he hasn’t worked with for thirty years?

  14. Why on God’s green earth was it RR’s responsibility to write all the songs and have a vision for this great and talented group.Maybe because that is the way the universe planned it.Maybe he was just listening and being obedient to his muse.RR’s talents would have manifest whether or not he was in THE BAND.Surely RR love’s his former bandmates.For all we know he has reached out to them and maybe was not received.We may never know.On RR’s first solo album he wrote the most amazing song for Richard Manual.To my ears a most incredible display of love towards his friend.

  15. People often confuse writing and arranging songs. Clearly, by all accounts, Robertson wrote the songs and lyrics to most of The Band’s great songs. Of course The Band members were involved in the arrangement of the music as is the case with most bands. The producer is also involved in the process and on some occasions the engineer steps in. Levon, like Danko and Manuel, was an addict and destroyed his own life. But like many addicts, he blamed someone else for it. Robertson never stepped in and filed a lawsuit to stop The Band from touring like many have in the industry. Nor did he stop them from playing his songs. Levon, according to Larry Campbell, could be a stubborn, hard ass at times, and sadly ruined the friendship. He also was proud and I seriously doubt that he would have taken any kind of financial help from Robertson or anyone else.

    1. I have loved the Band since first hearing them. Of course I read Levon’s book and it left a bad taste in my mouth, but it seemed to me that the amount of vitriol expressed was equal to the shame and guilt for his own actions/inactions. Doc, you pretty much said it all in this post. Thanks. Furtunately the music speaks for itself.

  16. No one in the Levon Helm Family was contacted by the Grammy organizers about the tribute segment they organized. The family had nothing to do with the musical line-up – no input whatsoever. The comments in this article are without merit.

  17. Robbie Robertson is a lying conniving scumbag, who along with Albert Grossman usurped the financial windfall of the Band and left Richard and Rick, hurting and desperate and eventually dead.
    Levon, suffered as well, but in the end, he won much more, with worldwide acclaim, Grammys, huge tours, surrounded by friends and family and a hoard of fans.
    Levon remained close and loyal to Richard and Rick and their families, he became the most beloved man in Woodstock NY, loved and adored by neighbors, he maintained close bonds with all the folks in the business who rallied around him and the rambles. robbie Robertson has the money, but at what cost? he has no career, his passing will only alert the bankers . Levon leaves a legacy that lives on with bands like The Felice Brothers, The Low Anthem, and The Avett Brothers just to name a few.
    Levon will be missed

  18. As already noted above, Levon Helm couldn’t write music. The near-total lack of original music written by Helm in over 30 years after “The Last Waltz” proves it. Levon got mad when he figured out that not having songwriting credits was going to cost him money. But he didn’t have songwriting credits because he didn’t and couldn’t write songs. He did a great job singing the songs that Robbie Robertson wrote.

  19. In Last Waltz Ronnie spoke of how Robbie would be holed up in the motel practicing his ass off while the rest of em were in the bar. Like him or not he was the dedicated genius of the group but minus just one… and it wasn’t “THE BAND”

    genius of The Band, but minus just one of them… it wouldn’t have been the same.

    would be in the motel practicing his ass off

  20. i have seldom heard such ignorant unfounded claims from lonesome losers who want to vent their personal rage over issues that they have no knowledge of…

    check the albums people…

    on big pink, richard manuel is sole writer of 3 of the songs…!
    in a station , we can talk , lonesome suzie and he co-wrote tears of rage with dylan,.!
    robertson wrote only 4 of the songs….
    does that sound like a guy who is hogging the song writing..?

    the other songs are dylan-danko wheels on fire, dylan’s i shal be released and
    the cover of long black veil…

    Maunel is co-writer on 2 songs on Stage Fright..
    Levon is co-writer on strawberry wine..

    should levon be co-writer on all of stage fright because you morons think he needs the money..?

    are you morons saying that levon should be given co-swriter credit because he played drums and sang on some of the songs..?…because he was a beautiful cat doesnt mean he should get writer credit for things he did not write…come on….get a grip..cry babies..

    you are saying that he should be co-writer on The Weight..?..because he sang it..?

    that IS the money song….is robertson to blame that it is so popular..?

    why not give Ringo writer credit for writing Sgt pepper.?..after all, he played drums on it..

    you people have no sense…

    if robbie did or did not give levon some money when he needed money…that is one issue which is nobody;s business…its between them..

    get a life somewhere somehow..


  21. i am a big fan of “the band” from the get go.not to diminish rick and richards vovals to me levon was the voice of the band. however without robbies licks there is no band. this was c0nfirmed for me when isaw eric claptons smile towards robbie during there dual licks in the last waltz which at least once a month. if i could have one wish it wuold be to have robbie and eric sign my custom guitar my father had made for me in 1957. hes long gone but still watches over me im 71 and have trouble playing now due to aneurism but no matter god bless my hero robbie robertson and “the band” for ever faithfull ken pape 564 durham rd sayville ny 11782 tel 631 589 3977 kick ass robbie ken

  22. Robbie Robertson is a shit guitar player. Clapton laughs at Robbie as he hotdogs it with his shitty pinch harmonic upper register bended out bullshit lead playing. Clapton stays in the pocket because that’s what masters do during lead duels unless the intensity is mutually ramped up by skillful, dynamic playing. Also Robertson’s stink faces are terrible.

    Robbie Robertson writes good songs.

    The Band is my favorite band.

    1. actually clapton isnt laughing at robertsons guitar playing, in that scene in the movie ,what he IS laughing at is the fact that his guitar strap broke in the middle of his solo, and Robbie picked up the pace effortlessly, get your facts strait, and actually eric loved robbies playing he said so many times

      1. Well then. Clapton is a publicity hound as well as RR. Ever notice how Clapton has used every one from John Mayall, thru the Yardbirds, Delaney Bramelett to Steve Winwood, and the one that defies all logical praise, Duane Allman. (He sucks any credit he can from the LP Layla . . . a dual theft of talent as he stole Duane’s licks while stiffing Bobby Whitlock for hard earned and well deserving song writing credits (remind you of anynp\\one?).
        Clapton is the biggest whore in Rock n Roll.

    2. I wouldn’t be surprised if the “dropping of the guitar due to faulty placement of the harness” was staged so RR could demonstrate RR ‘talent’ . . . throughout The Last Waltz it is VERY apparent that RR is using this film as a hoped for vault into movie business. How Ironic that Levon ended up with a far more impressive film career than the carpet bugger = oops that should read “Bagger” . . .( I think).

      The true test will come at Robertson’s demise . . . just how many folks will turn up for a “Love For Robbie” contest (not including The Bodeans and Whoppi Golddberg).

  23. I don’t have a dog in this hunt but it strikes me if Levon was so bitter, why wasn’t Rick or Garth just as bitter? In fact didn’t they perform on Robertson’s solo albums?

    My observation from these posts are the ones that support Robbie seem to be very reasonably minded posts, and the few who are seem to support Levon by spewing venom at Robbie, seem to be written by little children. My unbiased observation.

  24. The feud wasnt about the imput on songs it was about Robbie taking Levons southern style and pretending it was his own, Levon was an education to Robbie, Levon taught him how to deliver the style. Levon was upset that Robbie never credited this to his friend he allowed people to believe he crafted the style.

    We love Robbie but it is obvious that Levon is all over his music.

    1. robbie always acknowlaged levon’s life and family as a huge influence. in nearly every interview ive ever seen him in, he talks about spending time with Levon’s family and the talks he had with Levon’s dad, and how one particular conversation with Levon’s father led to the inspiration of “The Night the Dove Old dixie down.” Also it wasn’t Levon’s style, it was the southern US in general that robbie was enamored with.

  25. For years, after reading Levon’s book “this wheel’s on fire”, I had a grudge against Robbie! In the last few years, however, I’ve changed my view. The problem is that here was a group of 5 top-notch multi-instrumentalists, who didn’t just make albums, they jointly orchestrated–if not jointly composed–all of them. After 8 years on the road, during the formative years of their adulthood, they knew each other incredibly well (or as Richard puts it, there was a kind of ‘clairvoyance’). Robbie himself, at the induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame said that he always believed, then and now, that no other group of musicians could have played his songs with as much soul. What do you do with that?

    The industry had a policy that they paid the songwriter the royalties. There is clearly some justification to that. If you subtracted only one element of their music, subtracting the songwriting would have the greatest impact on their joint long-term success. They all made ALOT of money for performances. Some times as much as a 1/4 million a night (in todays dollars, then about 50k each) EACH. Concurrent with these performances they were making records. It is a little condescending to imagine that the men who had been involved in recording since their days with Ronnie Hawkins, had no idea whatsoever about how royalties worked. They also could have asked if they wanted to, or had the foresight to. To think that they relied on Robbie to look out for them like a parent is naive at best.

    Personally, The Band is by far my favorite group of musicians, and within The Band, Richard Manuel is my favorite. I would give all I own just to be able to go back in time and spend all of it following him around as a roadie! So, yes, I am a FAN big-time.

    As far as the confused poster who said Robbie couldn’t play guitar well, he should see that Robbie made the top 100 on the Rolling Stone’s list of the greatest guitarist of all time. He didn’t have a ‘show-off’ flashy and fast style of playing. He played with subtlety, melodically enhancing the mood of the song. He isn’t simply muting the notes, he is bending them and creating tones in-between the notes. Ask Clapton what HE thought of Robbie’s playing.

  26. I have never heard a negative comment about RR from the Garth, Richard or Rick. It is only from LH. Ronnie Hawkins and Levon went to Canada in 1959 or 60 and recruited the Canadians and when they broke from Ronnie Hawkins I bet Levon thought of himself as the leader. The problem with that is leadership is earned and Robertson , by writing the songs and being interested in the music business earned the trust of the other 3 members. This probably drove LH nuts, but what was he going to do, quit. He had a good thing going and Robertson was writing the songs. Not a a Helm strength. The problem came when Robertson decided to quit and run off with Scorcese after the Last Waltz. If the Band had continued on like the Stones and continued to tour and make money you wouldn’t have heard a peep from Levon Helm regardless of any dispute over songwriting credits.

  27. I chose to remain a spectator and great fan of all of The Band’s members. Robbie Robertson had to stand strong on his rights to the royalties being the songwriter of most songs… that’s his legal right. Levon Helm created and delivered the style with which made the groove and ID for the RR songs.. and it looked like, up front, one was known because of another..But royalties and all rights to it, which made money, had a sole rightful owner. Levon was a great act. He’s unforgettable. I’m sure the rift between him and RR was actually been fixed up. Only the media and people’s opinion keep the brew brewing. I chose and I have faith that the friendship and brotherhood of the 5 great musicians was actually of good strings.. to the end..

  28. It seems like greed usually trumps all. But I also think that in the Helm-Robertson feud, there was a little bit of truth on both sides. His side, his side, and the real story. I guess I would like to believe that throughout all , there was still love for each other at the end. At least a little bit.

  29. It seems like greed usually trumps all. But I also think that in the Helm-Robertson feud, there was a little bit of truth on both sides. His side, his side, and the real story. I guess I would like to believe that throughout all , there was still love for each other at the end. At least a little bit.

  30. It is quite saddening Robertson is such a greedy scumbag. Those other men gave their lives to the band yet he didn’t care when Levon was going broke and dying.

    He must be an Ayn Rand follower. Robertson makes millions and let the people who helped make that music starve.


    Ayn Rand’s philosophy, “superiors” have no moral obligations to those weaker or more vulnerable than they.

    Rand is perhaps the only virulently anti-Christian writer that Republicans nonetheless routinely feel comfortable heaping praise upon. In a charming 1964 interview with Playboy, Rand described the crucifixion of Jesus in terms of “mythology,” and submitted that she would feel “indignant” over such a “sacrifice of virtue to vice.” That Christians are called to care for the most vulnerable of God’s people was, to Rand, manifest proof that the religion has nothing constructive to add to human life: After all, in her philosophy, “superiors” have no moral obligations to those weaker or more vulnerable than they. According to Rand, the Christian moral imperative to serve the needy is a “monstrous idea.”

    1. Haven’t a clue what you’re talking about in your post, but the way I size it up, you’re proving Robbie’s right.

  31. Brad WTF are you talking about. Stick to the subject and dont go off track. The only people that know exactly what transpired in the creation of the music are Robertson, Helm and the other 3 members of The Band. Lets appreciate the music they left behind.

  32. With Robbie’s release of Testimony (which I have not yet read), I got thinking about this feud again, and found my way here.

    I firmly believe that the truth is somewhere in the middle of Robbie and Levon’s stories. If they had only put “Lyrics by Robbie Robertson; Music by the Band,” none of this would have ever mattered. Based on what I know of their sessions for (at least) the first 2 albums, songs were crafted together, collaboratively. I’m sure Robbie came in with lyrics and/or basic song ideas, but I have a feeling that given the superb musicianship of the other 4 guys, those “songs” became THE songs only after being worked and re-worked together. And to be clear, I’m talking about the first 2 albums here. By the second album, Robbie had the lion’s share of sole writing credits, and I believe THAT is what irked Levon—not so much after that (as he freely admitted that Robbie took over after that).

    I do take one issue with a bunch of people saying that Richard, Rick and Garth never chimed in . True — Richard never chimed in before he killed himself. And Garth strikes me as someone who won’t say anything. (I truly hope that he puts out a book before he goes, but I doubt it). But Rick did chime in:

    “I think Levon’s book hits the nail on the head about where Robbie and Albert Grossman and some of those people went wrong and The Band stopped being The Band. I’m truely friends with everyone but hey…it could happen to Levon, too. When people take themselves too seriously and believe too much of their bullshit, they usually get in trouble.”

    Rick always struck me as a very likable, down-to-earth kind of guy who didn’t really have a bone to pick with anyone. Or at least never carried a grudge. I put a lot of stock in his quote. Robbie has always struck me as someone who takes himself way too seriously and has a seriously overinflated ego. I don’t doubt he’s been a shrewd businessman his whole life, and it’s served him well. Hell, even Simon has talked about getting screwed by Robbie on royalties from the first 2 albums (in exchange for a big fat bridge to nowhere promise about Last Waltz). Robbie seems ok with putting business and money ahead of his friendships, and that’s his prerogative. He has to live with how that affected the people he claims were his closest friends and brothers.

    Anyway, all ancient history. I love the Band, and I wish they’d have carried on.

  33. Seems like when it comes down to the issue of “rights”, we’re all over giving ourselves the right to trample another person’s right to deal with personal issues privately, in the way they feel is right. No one remembers the pundits for contributing…nothing…but the MUSIC of The Band, where the whole was indisputably greater then the sum of its parts, is the legacy that shaped a generation and beyond. “Love, joy, peace…”

  34. Lets see, Levon was a junkie for who knows how many years. Richard committed suicide after years of hard core drinking and drug use, Rick Danko died of abuse related issues, Robbie Robertson went on the road at age 16, and the rest of them show no signs of having finished HS. And together they put out some of my favorite music for years.

    I read Levon book and he was so bitter it was hard to have any respect for Robbie. Now I have read Robbie’s book and he has nothing but praise for Levon and the rest of the Band. He has certainly taken the higher ground.

    I am surprised that anyone would expect this flawed group of great musician to have survived this long. No one mentions the obvious mental health issue that appear to have been present. Throw it all together and you end up with this type of situation. They all made a pile of money. Maybe Robbie made more because of the publishing rights. Should he have bailed out the rest of the members just because they pissed theirs away? Well it would have been nice but the real world does not work like that.

    And while I am speculating does anyone find Garth a bit on the autistic spectrum (Asberger’s syndrome) side. Regardless I would love to hear his view on the whole ball of wax.

    I only got to see the Band once and that was at the Watkins Glen Festival. I also got to see Rick Danko as a solo act less than a year before his death.

    I love the Band’s music but they were not a particularly well adjusted bunch. So that is how it all ended up. Deaths, suicides, bankruptcies, drug addiction, alcoholism, and who know what else. I wish they were all still hear putting out great live music.

  35. look, there is one way to see who is telling the truth in this stupid feud,just listen to all the great songs the Band made after robbie left the group oh ya there aint any,Robbie stayed away from smack, levon, richard, and rick, blew all their money by being typical musicians with addiction problems, and sold their publishing rites to robbie who was smart enough to buy them,these personal attacks by people who didnt know any of them at all are childish,I am not saying robertson was an angel, I dont know him at all, but if levon helm had such a beef, why did it take him all those years to say anything, sounds like he had what most addicts have, huge resentments ,and an inherant need to blame other people for his mistakes, and i like his public persona immensly, its really sad to see this shit played out in public, but lets be truthful, Robbie wrote their greatest songs some may be inspired by a story levon told him, but that doesnt give him cowriter credit.

  36. Jonathan Taplin. John Simon. Larry Campbell. They all pretty much agree. They all should know. They were all there.

    I love Levon Helm’s drumming, and his singing. I’ve read his book (twice).

    Taplin and Simon both stated that Robbie wrote the songs, the lyrics and the melodies and the basic chord progression. Mr. Campbell stated that Mr. Helm’s songwriting wasn’t going to do any labor writing songs.

    “ Robbie was the one who wrote the lyrics and wrote the music. Wrote the lyrics on legal paper, or whatever he wrote it on, and figured out the chords to the song and dictated the melody and chords to the other players.” – John Simon

    ”writing with Levon, my experience was, he wasn’t gonna do any labor where writing a song is concerned. The songs we’ve co-written, when it came down to constructing the song, that was my job.” – Larry Campbell

    The three post-Robbie Band albums, especially Jericho and High on the Hog, contained songs mostly written by others,

  37. All 5 of these incredibly talented guys made such awesome individual contributions that really couldn’t be duplicated by anyone else. The recipe for the band could not succeed without each ingredient in my opinion. Even Robbie’s weaker vocals on the few songs he did lead sing had their unique appeal and flavor that I wouldn’t change as his solo albums prove in my opinion. The biggest shame was Richard’s vast talent for both writing and singing going to waste through his preference for drug and alcohol abuse. And with both Levon and Rick taking that path as well it just slams home the truth. Robbie put pen to paper and that’s it regardless of who influenced him. Richard became a shadow of his former self according to Levon which was unbearable to watch with the immense respect he had for him. Robbie took over captaincy of this boat and steered it to success when Levon relinquished that job to him. Loved them all with my slight favorite being Richard in his prime but no doubt Robbie kept bumping the train back on track when all three lead singers derailed it from time to time. He had the vision, skill, and patience to turn them from a bar band into the best band ever justly deserving of their name.

  38. Just a quick note to everyone above….as William Shatner said to the people at the Star Trek convention on SNL “GET A LIFE” as a veteran of about 10 rambles…I was just as impressed by Larry,Brian ,Steve,Howard,Little Sammy and Clark as I was by Levon. It was a group effort….not the Levon Show……. and as a side note I think Barbra should be thanked just as much as the musicians for helping the cause if not more…..

  39. If Robbie hadn’t written those songs no one would ever have heard of Levon Helm. They aren’t jamming songs, a group didn’t write Acadian Driftwood. They did the last waltz cause Richard was dying on the road so they had to come off it. You want a song writing credit you have to sit down and write a song, arranging doesn’t cut it.

  40. RR wrote the songs and was disciplined enough while the others were partying. After he left, the band was only an empty Shell I ve seen them once in their afterdays in Belgium playing in a youth house for 400 People with a totally wasted Rick Danko, man I felt ashamed in their place. Levon Helm held a grudge because he was just jealous of Robbie’s talent as as a great songwriter. I give RR all the credit he can get.

  41. I too have written comments on this subject previously and wondered if one of those involved was trolling. Whether it was or it wasn’t, I found myself asking the question. Basically, the comment was, that Levon could cry all he wanted to in his book, but that every member of the Band was “a wealthy person” at the conclusion of “Last Waltz.” All of that money was then spent on drugs and that their poverty in later life was their own fault. But I think the point Levon was making in his book was that their contributions to the music of the Band should have been recognized within the copyrights. And, far from being “hand outs,” should have been additional compensation for work done at that time. But they screwed up. They had trusted the person handling the legal steps to take care of them properly. And he did not.

    I read here, within these comments, three things I want to mention. The first was the comment about Paul’s bass lines in George’s songs. My understanding is that they all freely helped one another with their Beatles songs. And even if there was a wash list of free exchange within the Beatles catalog, they all were legal partners in the group. They all shared in it’s revenues and record sales. George passed away a wealthy man from that revenue alone. (Of course not to mention his own following work.) R.I.P. George.

    Secondly, at least within the modern copyright submissions, it is required those seeking copyright, should include all of those who had a “creative contribution” to the work. It occurs to me that arrangements, instrumentation, and even the adding of lyrics to a work, stand as “creative contributions.”

    The third comment speaks to this second idea. And I will say just one thing with regard to contribution to copyright, and a precedent to those who think the other members of the “Band” had no reason to gripe. Creedence Clearwater Revival. JM

  42. In “Once Were Brothers”,
    Robbie said that Levon was unconscious
    when he visited.
    So how does this author believe otherwise?

  43. Shame on Robbie Robertson. This goes way beyond the music. Something seriously wrong when one person has a net worth of 50 million RR, one 1 million, and 2 with nothing due to poor health. I find it wreaks of a selfish, soulless POS. If he cared so much he would’ve helped whenever and where ever he could. What a disgusting human being.

  44. I met Rick and he befriended me late in his life and I can as many have say that he was a gentleman. He was not the alcoholic junkie as Robertson described recently. Who among us that grew up in that time were did not dabble in drugs and alcohol 3 or 4 times a week?
    I am a musician and songwriter but not published but had interest from a well known performer and also an aficionado of rock guitarists. Top 100 lists are space fillers and trivial nonsense and Rolling Stone in particular is as interesting as moldy bread.
    There are music lovers and there are music lovers and one thing that struck me for years is that prolific songwriters are songwriters forever. Tom Waits, Dave Alvin, Lowell George for example have vast catalogs and though George died young he had it. The Band members had skills like no others such as switching instrument and vocal duties. Robertson had guitar and played with much skill while many songs he seemed to have strange little fills and no strong rhythm parts. He had a mic in front of him but you never heard him.
    Then he “retired” the band. He had a couple tunes he did on TV (SNL was one I believe) and the songs were totally unlistenable. His interest in music or touring solo seemed non-existent. Writers all seem to tour after they have broken off with their group and glory days are behind them. But who has heard Robbie sing solo with an acoustic on a small stage anywhere and if you did was it a memory making event? He could have been an MTV unplugged item with his vast catalog so where was the future movie star? He certainly dressed the part in the Last Waltz looking like he was right out GQ. And did he copyright the songs with sheet music submissions or audio recordings? Probably audio with The Band’s masters and guidance from Grossman for a percentage perhaps. Who received publishing rights and royalties? Songwriters usually have someone else as publisher and a 50/50 split. Grossman was a money man not a music fan. He somehow had the first LP pressed and distributed and the group named as well. And why did he not allow the Weight to be used on the soundtrack LP to Easy Rider? The song was on it by The Smith and who were they? performance rights royalties were paid to someone but who? RR and Grossman? That would be my guess. The Band’s label company would have allowed The Band’s version would they not?
    Robertson hobnobs with the Hollywood crowd and acts as if he were Newman or Brando. He also acted as though he were conducting the musicians in Waltz and even puts Neil Diamond in the show! Who listened to The Band AND Neil Diamond as a matter of rote? That would be like a show I attended of Frank Zappa’s Apostrophe tour and the opening act was REO Speedwagon. Another ‘what the F***’ moment REO did their short set and 2/3 of the audience left. You could tell by their manner of attire who the fans were, high school couples on a date and Zappa fans looked like… well, Zappa fans. No polyester please…or Armani, Gucci or silk scarves like Robbie wore.
    Did Robbie jam with Dickey Betts at Watkins Glen? Robbie would have struggled. And Clapton’s strap did not break it was not hooked on the strap button properly, an easy and common mistake if one is hurried. It is easy to see in the film.
    It does not add up and leaves questions in my mind. Robertson seemed to be a poser and an outsider to me. If he wrote what he claimed then he had a novelist’s mind and rich background to draw from. The Civil War though? Please….

  45. I have yet to read Robbie’s book but I intend to. I go back and forth with my thoughts on who is the bad guy and all that shit.

    The songwriter getting the publishing royalties thing, seems to be something that stems from the roots of early radio where white record producers could make money off of black blues musicians back in the days of race records. The guy singing doesn’t get jack shit. Unless he plays shows and negotiates his cut beforehand.

    When bands get real big, there’s always one or two guys that have more money than they can ever spend while the others had better budget their shit. U know… I think Don Henley is a douche nozzle and Glenn Frey was kind of one as well. Point being this happens all too often with bands and its shitty.
    Having said all that, I know for me Rick, Richard and Levon were what made them The Band. Robbies trademark tone and somewhat sloppy style with exaggerated bends and clever syncopated accents were a big part of their sound too. I just love them so much and I hate everyday that it ended like it did. And my three favorite rock and roll singers are gone from this world.

  46. Robbie is so talented and looks like such a nice guy. but, i don’t know….i could see him being as a pain in the ass. this story has been told by other bands. if the other members just participated….i think Robbie could give something to them. but Robbie is not warm and fuzzy. Levon’s wife was right to NOT allow him onstage. the big reason is that the tribute would become about Robbie and “how wonderful he showed up and loves Levon”. Robbie can see it on TV as he counts his money, I’m a fan or Robbie, believe me AND the other members. But we all need to be honest and we have to know when to draw the line when someone can’t help others with money. that’s how i feel only an opinion. and maybe i’m the one who’s being warm and fuzzy now.

  47. I just finished reading Robbie Robertson’s book Testimony and he has nothing but praise & respect for Levon – whom he considered an older brother. Robbie did do most of the songwriting but he encouraged & tried to get the other members of the band to write songs too & wrote many songs specifically for Levon to sing. When Bob Dylan wanted to hire Robbie for a tour he said they were a group of five & if Dylan hired him they he would have to hire all five of them Eric Clapton’s opinion of the band is that he was impressed with their work ethic and integrity there were no prima donnas The difference was that while Robbie did do drugs he stayed away from heroin which at times got the better of Levon, Rick and Richard. Robbie bought the publishing rights from the members of the band with their permission and knowledge so for Levon to claim Robbie cheated him out of credit or money is absurd. Being on the road (for 16 yrs) was getting to all all of them & it was Robbie’s idea to go out while they were on top before the road killed them one way or another.

  48. Watching the “Last Waltz” I got a feeling of tension between Levon, and Rick, from Rick, but that could have been anything from fatigue, to a headache! It looked to me like Rick, was “put out” by Helms, not shortening the song, when performing “The Night They Drove O’l Dixie Down” but again, it could have been anything!

  49. One other thing that should be considered, you have 4- Canadians, and one “dyed in the wool” young-southerner, that’s 16-years of controversial thought processes!

  50. Lennon and McCartney always wrote under that byline, tho’ often a song might be the work of just one of them. ‘Yesterday’ is an absolute classic, written by Paul alone, yet credited to both. Just as ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’ was all John, but still credited to Lennon/McCartney.

    If I wrote a song about a girlfriend, she’d get a small percentage of writing royalties, maybe just 5%, for inspiring the song, which I’d have never written without her.

    Robbie himself said Levon showed him the ropes when he first joined the Hawks. To my mind, Robbie could have given Levon credit (also Rick, on some songs) and a portion of the royalties, without it hurting his ego or bank balance much. It would have been a fine way to show his appreciation for the fact that he could NEVER have had the same kind of success with those songs as a solo artist, using session musicians, and singing the songs himself. There’s just no way.

    But such is the dark side of the business of writing and making music, which has caused more enmity and bitterness than any other field of work I can think of.
    So very sad, that something as beautiful as those songs caused such ugly conflict.

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