Why The Band’s Levon Helm And Robbie Robertson Hated Each Other
Rock stars are known for their rebellious attitude, which goes beyond their music. They often speak their minds freely, and history shows they don’t hold back. These feuds have been sparked by a range of reasons, from forbidden romances to artistic disagreements. They can be unfortunate, leading to the breakup of bands and strained relationships, as it did in the case of the Band.
The group had a falling out when guitarist Robbie Robertson suggested they play a farewell concert for a Martin Scorsese film after years of touring and albums. While the others agreed, drummer Levon Helm was unhappy with how the production focused on Robertson and celebrity guests. In his 1993 autobiography, Helm criticized the project, calling it a major betrayal of the Band.
Robertson’s Perspective On The Feud
He also disputed Robertson’s claim to have written all their songs, saying they were a collaborative effort. In a 2020 chat with Salon, Robbie discussed the long-lasting disagreement he had with Levon, saying:
“Here’s something that I’ve not said before. To this day, on the Band’s songs, I share the publishing and songwriting credit with Levon. The other guys said they wanted to sell their part of the publishing. When we started out, everyone was supposed to write songs. [When they didn’t] I thought they were being lazy. But some people can write songs, and some can’t. Levon didn’t write songs. I gave him credit on some songs because he was around.”
He continued, further detailing the feud between him and Levon:
“After 16 years together, Levon never once mentioned songwriting. When it came up, I was generous about it. I did stuff I didn’t have to do, and I did it to be a good friend. It was 10 or 15 years after that when Levon was struggling financially, and he’s blamed someone else for what happened with him. This was another case of that.”
Reconciliation And Final Moments
Helm’s anger towards Robertson was so strong that he didn’t attend fellow Band member Rick Danko’s funeral when Robertson was there. They reportedly reconciled on Helm’s deathbed in 2012. Robbie shared on his Facebook page that he had a long meeting with Helm at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. He wrote:
“On Sunday, I went to New York and visited him in the hospital. I sat with Levon for a good while and thought of the incredible and beautiful times we had together. It was heartwarming to be greeted by his lovely daughter Amy, whom I have known since she was born. Levon is one of the most extraordinary talented people I’ve ever known and very much like an older brother to me. I am so grateful I got to see him one last time and will miss him and love him forever.”
On April 19, 2012, Helm passed away at the age of 71 due to complications arising from throat cancer. Robertson also died in Los Angeles on August 9, 2023, at the age of 80, following a one-year struggle with prostate cancer.