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This Wheel's on Fire: Levon Helm and the Story of the Band [Paperback]

Levon Helm
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Sep 2000
The Band, who backed Bob Dylan when he went electric in 1965 and then turned out a half-dozen albums of beautifully crafted, image-rich songs, is now regarded as one of the most influential rock groups of the '60s. But while their music evoked a Southern mythology, only their Arkansawyer drummer, Levon Helm, was the genuine article. From the cotton fields to Woodstock, from seeing Sonny Boy Williamson and Elvis Presley to playing for President Clinton, This Wheel's on Fire replays the tumultuous history of our times in Levon's own unforgettable folksy drawl. This edition is expanded with a new afterword by the authors.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press; 2nd edition (1 Sep 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1556524056
  • ISBN-13: 978-1556524059
  • Product Dimensions: 22.8 x 15.7 x 1.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 394,132 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"One of the most insightful and intelligent rock bios in recent memory." -- Entertainment Weekly

"wisdom and humor roaring off of every page, expertly written by one of the true heroes of my generation" -- Bob Dylan

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book by a great man! 13 Feb 2004
This book is written by the Levon Helm, who was is the Singer/drummer/mandolin player with The Band, which I'm sure most of you will already know. He gives his account of how he grew up and came to meet and form one of the most important bands in the history of music. What he conveys in this book, is a complete love of music from all different genres and his fellow band-mates. This biography is full of wonderful stories told with personality and humour. Ronnie Hawkins is featured throughout and is incredibly funny! It also gives you an alternative view on how the Last Waltz was put together and the tension that was mounting (understandably) between certain members of the band. Levon is just a really nice guy and gives full credit and respect to all folks deserved of his praise and remains modest and down to earth. I couldn't put the book down, it's so easy to read. A must for all band/music fans! In my opinion he is one of the greatest drummer/singers ever and this is his story.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent description of a musical journey 4 Sep 2008
The Band were always a mysterious group of musicians, seemingly arriving fully-formed on the scene with their debut record "Music From Big Pink". Their work - at least in the early part of their career - produced a remarkable collection of songs that draw from deep wells of American tradition, folklore and musical styles. Add to that their important role as Bob Dylan's backing band when he took the ground-breaking decision to go electric, and you get some idea of the significant position that they occupy in musical history.

Here, Levon Helm (writer, drummer, singer, mandolin player) tells the story of their musical journey, beginning with his own childhood in rural Arkansas (the rest of the group came from Canada, which added to The Band's sense of other-worldliness), his early attraction to music as a way of getting out of the chores on his family's farm, joining up with singer Ronnie Hawkins, and the evolution of Hawkins' backing group into The Band. He describes the relentless hours of playing and practicing that were the groundwork for their selection by Dylan and their apparently effortless debut, and the way in which they gradually lost momentum, culminating in their farewell concert (captured on film by Martin Scorcese as "The Last Waltz").

This is a very well-written memoir. Helm takes you along on his remarkable journey, introducing you to all the characters that he met along the way, and telling you what happened to them. Along the way, he shows you some extraordinary scenes, including The Band jamming with a very impressed Sonny Boy Williamson shortly before his death, Rick Danko trying to skin roadkill, Robbie Robertson singing "so powerfully" into a switched-off microphone in "The Last Waltz", and the lonely, tragic death of Richard Manuel. I don't think I've read such an interesting, entertaining biography in any field (let alone just that of music) in a long time.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By Ms. Felicia Davis-burden VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is the best Rock memoir I've read. Helm's bittersweet memories, humour and grievances are brilliantly presented. I suspect some punches were held back - particularly concerning Robbie Robertson, for whom Helm to this day still seems to hold a grudge - but there are episodes where you can feel sympathy for Levon. The 'Last Waltz' chapter is where his simmering resentment for Robertson finally explodes into anger.

An engrossing and stimulating read; makes you want to play all the albums again. That's the sign of a job well done. And Helm's STILL rockin'!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Stuff! 28 Aug 2012
By Skydog
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you are a fan of The Band, this book is a must! Written with real fire, honesty and passion. Levon Helm gives you a wonderful insight into his personal life, as well as the magic that was created with the Band! He goes all the way back to when he first joined Ronnie Hawkins. I flew through the first couple hundred pages and now I an nearing the end, I am trying to hold off as much as possible because I don't want the book to end! I recommend listening to these albums from The Band 'Music from Big Pink, Basement tapes and The Band (brown album)' whilst reading the book, its really great and makes you feel like you are at Woodstock in the Pink House, Levons Barn and Shangri-La! The Last Waltz must end someday :(
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read 9 May 2012
By patrea
Been meaning to buy it for some time - now prompted by sad news of Levon's death.
I could not put this down - a great life story, well-written, and interesting history on the development of his genre, going way back to the development of the blues and rock and roll and 'country rock'.
The Last Waltz is still one of the best albums and rock films ever made - interesting seeing it now with the perspective of the book.
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