It seems appropriate to wrap up a year in which I was lucky enough to see Levon Helm play in his barn twice by inducting Mr. Helm and his Bandmates into the Tinsel and Rot Hall of Fame.
I've spent a lot of time here and elsewhere (someday either I'll scan in my No Depression tribute to Rick Danko or just find the disk I have it on) pontificating on the greatness of The Band, so I'll keep this brief. Simply put, I can't imagine there will be another band that will ever be as so overflowing with talent as The Band in their prime (and it should be noted that this induction applies solely to Misters Danko, Helm, Hudson, Manuel, and Robertson, lest anyone from the later years think they're getting in, too). There certainly won't be any group with three guys as vocally strong as Rick Danko, Levon Helm, and Richard Manuel (who weren't too shabby on their instruments of choice, either). Add in a pretty damn good guitarist in Robbie Robertson (good enough even to overcome his awful decision to invite Neil Diamond to "The Last Waltz") and a genuine eccentric master of the keys in Garth Hudson and, well, you've got something there.
I could write for hours about each member's greatness and how it blended so perfectly with the others', but that's been done a lot and I can't imagine I can add too much more without making this post a tedious read. Plus, why write when there are so many YouTube clips?
So, let me just welcome The Band into the Tinsel and Rot Hall of Fame. From the second I heard the post-Robbie/post-Richard Band at the Bob Dylan 30th Anniversary Celebration (on the radio, lest you think I was actually there), I could feel that something inside me had changed. And I am grateful for that.
The first time I heard The Band (dueling accordions!):
Richard Manuel singing "Rockin' Chair":
Rick Danko singing "It Makes No Difference":
Levon Helm singing "Don't Do It":
And with this induction, the Hall closes up shop for what we expect will be the length of 2009. It's getting pretty full in the Hall, and we want to give the inductees some room to breathe and/or avoid Gary Busey.