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Bob Dylan Responds to Levon Helm’s Passing

Bob Dylan
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

Levon Helm‘s death yesterday (April 19) at the age of 71 sent waves of grief through the musical community, prompting eloquent tributes and emotional remembrances from some of the many fans and fellow artists the drummer touched during his career. Levon’s friend and former boss, Bob Dylan, has added a few words of his own.

“He was my bosom buddy friend to the end, one of the last true great spirits of my or any other generation,” Dylan wrote in a message posted to his website. “This is just so sad to talk about. I still can remember the first day I met him and the last day I saw him. We go back pretty far and had been through some trials together. I’m going to miss him, as I’m sure a whole lot of others will too.”

Dylan helped kick off Levon’s recording career by hiring Helm and his bandmates to back him during his 1965-66 tour, then utilizing the group — later dubbed simply the Band — for a number of studio sessions, including the recordings that eventually produced Dylan’s ‘The Basement Tapes’ album.

By the late ’60s, the Band — featuring Helm, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel, Garth Hudson, and Robbie Robertson, all of whom shared various instrumental and vocal duties — was a well-known act in its own right, releasing a series of classic albums that included 1968′s ‘Music from Big Pink’ and 1969′s self-titled effort. But they maintained ties with Dylan, who toured with them in 1974 and was a featured guest at their legendary final concert, filmed by Martin Scorsese for the seminal documentary ‘The Last Waltz.’

After laying dormant for a time in the late ’70s and early ’80s, the Band reunited without Robertson, and although Dylan didn’t appear on the handful of albums they released in the ’90s, they continued to make room for his songs, covering ‘Blind Willie McTell’ on 1993′s ‘Jericho’ and ‘Forever Young’ on 1996′s ‘High on the Hog.’

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