Synopsis by Mark Deming
Born in Arkansas in 1940, Levon Helm started playing music before anyone thought up the name rock & roll, and after taking up the drums, he teamed with Ronnie Hawkins, a fellow Arkansan who was becoming a popular rockabilly star in Canada. In time, Helm and his bandmates parted ways with Hawkins to go out on their own, and after a spell as Bob Dylan's backing group they became known as The Band, recording a handful of the most honored rock albums of the 1960s and '70s. When guitarist and songwriter Robbie Robertson decided to break up The Band in 1976, the group's final concert was a major musical event that spawned Martin Scorsese's acclaimed documentary The Last Waltz. But Levon Helm wasn't done with music by a long shot, and in spite of three decades that would have tested any man's patience -- including troubles with drug addiction, unpaid record royalties, bankruptcy, legal skirmishes over the rights to his music, accidentally shooting himself in the leg, the death of two of his closest friends, and a battle with throat cancer -- in 2008 Helm had a banner year as he earned a Grammy nomination for his first studio album in years, Dirt Farmer, and he was given a lifetime achievement award by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Filmmaker Jacob Hatley offers an intimate look at a legend of American music as he struggles to keep moving forward against long odds in the documentary Ain't In It For My Health: A Film About Levon Helm, which was an official selection at the 2010 Los Angeles Film Festival.
cancer, music, musician, rock-band