Born in Arkansas in 1940, Levon Helm grew up listening Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis. By the 1960s, he began putting his personal stamp on rock ’n’ roll. During those years, Helm and guitarist Robbie Robertson joined Bob Dylan’s ever-so-controversial electric band and played together during the infamously tumultuous 1966 tour. Then, Helm and Robertson decided to form their own band — The Band. Robertson wrote or co-wrote most of their songs, while Helm often gave voice to them. And so things went until they didn’t.
In 1976, The Band broke up, but not before they played an epic final concert that Martin Scorsese documented for posterity in his film, The Last Waltz. Decades later, many critics consider it “the greatest rock concert movie ever made.” And although the film consisted mostly of live footage from their farewell concert in San Francisco, Scorsese filmed one of The Band’s memorable songs, “The Weight,” on an MGM soundstage. You can find the performance above, and Levon Helm singing soulfully on drums. The scene also features a guest appearance by Mavis Staples, along with her father and sisters in The Staple Singers.