As some readers out there may or may not know, I’ve spent a few years writing a music blog, The Delete Bin, which among other things shows my geekdom surrounding all kinds of musical genres, ranging from pop music to jazz. This post here on MatGtGaM can be looked upon as something of a cross-over, maybe. But, this is ultimately about fathers and daughters, and their journey together. So, it fits.
Anyway, on April 19 of this year, one of my musical heroes passed away at the age of 71 after a long battle with cancer; Levon Helm. For those of you who don’t recognize the name, he was the drummer, singer, and multi-instrumentalist of the incredibly influential rock group The Band. Over the course of their life as a group, they’d backed Bob Dylan when he played his first “electric” concerts in the mid 1960s. They’d also created critically acclaimed, even game-changing albums, had played the Woodstock festival, and were featured in Martin Scorcese’s film about their last show – The Last Waltz.
But, all the while, Levon was also the father of a daughter, Amy. Here’s a cool picture of them, which recently appeared on Amy Helm’s Facebook page in memoriam of her late dad.
In this shot, it looks like Amy is about three or four years old. Her dad was in the heyday of the Band by this time, with this picture probably taken just before Levon and the rest of the group hit the road with Bob Dylan again for one of the biggest tours of the 1970s. Yet, he was a devoted father, with a daughter clearly devoted right back. Look at Amy’s little hand as it curls around the back of his neck. That’s love.
Later, when Amy grew up, the two of them would collaborate as fellow musicians, recording and touring, even here to Vancouver where I saw them play in 2010. They’d become close as adults. They’d become friends. This was inspiring to me at the time, when I saw them perform together.
But, in seeing this picture, it struck me that they had a relationship that must have developed over time to get things to the point where they could develop a healthy adult relationship. Even in the middle of his success as a touring musician in a major act, he still found the time for Amy, who when she became an adult herself took to friendship and artistic collaboration with her father as a matter of course.
I imagine that the story isn’t quite as simple as that. I imagine there were struggles and strains between them like there are in every relationship. But, what I’m reminded of when I look at this picture is that I too have a goal that’s pretty clear where the Girl is concerned; see to it that I function as best I can as her father now, as she needs me to be for her during this period of her childhood, so that later on, she and I can also become good friends as adults.
I think ultimately this is what every parent wants. It certainly looks as though Levon and Amy had it. In her grief, I imagine this is one of the treasures that Amy can take as her own, and is something from her dad that is stronger and more enduring than his death.
For more information about Amy Helm, and her relationship with her dad (among other things), read this interview with Amy Helm.