Ain’t in It for My Health: A Film about Levon Helm

The portrait of the ailing artist is bittersweet, but when Helms sings or plays, the look on his face is pure joy.


Ain’t in It for My Health: A Film about Levon Helm

Director Jacob Hatley's intimate documentary finds Levon Helm at home in Woodstock, New York, in the midst of creating his first studio album in 25 years. Shot during the course of two-plus years, this highly anticipated film focuses in on the four-time Grammy winner and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member after his 2007 comeback album, Dirt Farmer, brought him back to the spotlight.

Born in Arkansas in 1940, Levon Helm rose to fame as the drummer for The Band, who toured with Bob Dylan before beginning their own tours from 1968 to 1976, and whose final performance was immortalized in Martin Scorsese's THE LAST WALTZ.

In the late 1990s, Levon Helm was diagnosed with throat cancer, and he began a series of radiation treatments that risked leaving him without his voice. Though the tumor was eventually removed, the treatment had damaged his vocal chords.

However, he made a remarkable breakthrough while drumming for his daughter, Amy. Attempting to sing backup vocals, he slowly but surely regained the use of his voice, and in 2007 began work on
Dirt Farmer, which would become his first solo album in more than 25 years. It would go on to receive the Grammy the following year for Best Traditional Folk Album. He followed this up in 2009 with Electric Dirt, which also won a Grammy in 2010 as Best Americana Album.

On April 19, 2012, Levon Helm succumbed to cancer, leaving behind an incredible musical legacy. Jacob Hatley's documentary, AIN'T IN IT FOR MY HEALTH: A FILM ABOUT LEVON HELM, explores the artist's creative process at work on his comeback album,
Dirt Farmer.
Not Rated
Documentary, Music, Rock and Roll
Jacob Hatley
Amy Helm, Barbara O'Brien, Billy Bob Thornton, Teresa Williams
A.O. Scott, New York Times

Listen, kids: long before Mumford & Sons grew out their facial hair and went digging for musical roots, there was the Band, who made a whole new thing out of old-time American music, even though they were 80 percent Canadian. The one member who wasn’t, Levon Helm, is the subject of a loose and ...

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