Krissie: Levon

I was just watching the tribute to Levon Helm on CBS Sunday Morning so those are tears in my eyes. God love him.
Sundays are lazy days, and most people are listing their three things, so I’ll indulge myself and tell you about what the Band (of which Levon was the heart and soul) meant in my life.
It was 1971, I was 23 years old and living in New York City, working for the Rockefeller Foundation for the sole purpose of rock and roll. I bought records the day they came out, I listened to FM radio (WNEW FM, then WABC FM, then WPLJ FM, then back to WNEW FM). I listened to Scott Muni and Jonathan Schwartz and Richard Robinson and the divine John Zacherle (who became a hero in one of my books), and I went to hear music. God, did I go to concerts! I was at the Fillmore when it caught on fire and Pete Townsend kicked an undercover cop in the balls when he jumped on stage and tried to grab the mike. (I smelled the smoke, but figured listening to the Who was as good a way to die as any). I saw the Doors before they became irrelevant, Eric Clapton in his Derek and the Dominoes tour. Cat Stevens in a tiny coffee house, the Rolling Stones at Madison Square Garden. The Fillmore East and Carnegie Hall and nightclubs and Central Park. I saw absolutely everyone and it filled my life. Music.
They had summer concerts in Central Park, and there I heard the great (the Youngbloods) and the absurd (Neal Diamond, who was on the same set as the Youngbloods). And one hot summer night I went to hear the Band.
Mind you, I already loved the Band. Loved them to pieces — their music had been the soundtrack to books I was reading and worked its way into my imagination. I was having a great time (I went to all these concerts alone) when they started in on “Rocking Chair.” It has close harmonies, and the sound drifted out over the warm night air, coming straight to me, and I knew it was time to go. I had had a wonderful time, going to concerts and having fun, but this, this was music. What I’d been devoting my life to had become ordinary. (And it had. Two years earlier, Woodstock had been the pinnacle, Altamont the death knell of the peak of creativity. Good music was still being made, but the golden time was past).
At that point I made the decision to leave, to move to our family house in Vermont and write a book.
Which I did.
Couldn’t drive, but I bought an old push-button Dodge station wagon, my sister drove it up and I moved into our summer house in Northern Vermont. Heated it with a kerosene space heater and a wood stove (some days it was so cold all I could do was move the rocking chair by the space heater and stay there all day). I had a cocker spaniel I called Flush (Elizabeth Barrett Browning, not toilets), a manual typewriter with an elite typeface, three tv stations, one of which was in French. I had records and books and a story to write, and I spent the winter completely isolated, writing the book which became BARRETT’S HILL.
All because I went to Central Park and listened to the Band that night, and I heard what the fates were trying to tell me.
I’m going to buy a new blu-ray copy of The Last Waltz. Levon never liked it, but it’s a fair treat to watch and hear again. And remember what Levon told me that hot summer night.
Go north, young woman, and find your bliss.
And I did.
So my three hits of happiness are Levon, Levon, and Levon. His smile, his voice, the man he was. God bless him.