Born in Arkansas in 1940, Levon Helm started playing music before anyone thought up the name rock & roll, and after taking up the drums, he teamed with Ronnie Hawkins, a fellow Arkansan who was becoming a popular rockabilly star in Canada. In time, Helm and his bandmates parted ways with Hawkins to go out on their own, and after a spell as Bob Dylan's backing group they became known as The Band, recording a handful of the most honored rock albums of the 1960s and '70s. When guitarist and songwriter Robbie Robertson decided to break up The Band in 1976, the group's final concert was a major musical event that spawned Martin Scorsese's acclaimed documentary THE LAST WALTZ. But Levon Helm wasn't done with music by a long shot, and in spite of three decades that would have tested any man's patience -- including troubles with drug addiction, unpaid record royalties, bankruptcy, legal skirmishes over the rights to his music, accidentally shooting himself in the leg, the death of two of his closest friends, and a battle with throat cancer -- in 2008 Helm had a banner year as he earned a Grammy nomination for his first studio album in years, DIRT FARMER, and he was given a lifetime achievement award by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Filmmaker Jacob Hatley offers an intimate look at a legend of American music as he struggles to keep moving forward against long odds in the documentary AIN'T IN IT FOR MY HEALTH: A FILM ABOUT LEVON HELM, which was an official selection at the 2010 Los Angeles Film Festival.
Amy Helm,Barbara O'Brien,Levon Helm,Billy Bob Thornton
Levon Helm was in the middle of an intensively creative period in the years just before his death. In addition to establishing the Midnight Ramble concert series as a must-see music experience, Helm’s “Dirt Farmer” earned the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Album in February of 2008, and in November of that same year, Rolling Stone magazine ranked him among The 100 Greatest Singers of All Time.
In 2010, his follow up “Electric Dirt” won the first ever Grammy Award for Best Americana Album. In 2011, his live album Ramble at the Ryman was nominated for the Grammy in the same category — and also won. Director Jacob Hatley’s intimate documentary finds Mr. Helm at home in Woodstock, NY, in the midst of creating his first studio album in 25 years.
Shot over the course of two-plus years, this highly anticipated film focuses on the former lead singer and drummer of “The Band,” four-time Grammy winner and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member after his “Dirt Farmer” comeback album ushered him back into the spotlight. While this period was artistically productive, AIN’T IN IT FOR MY HEALTH: A Film About Levon Helm also shows Helm dealing with the burdens of renewed celebrity, continuing financial obligation and returning health problems.
The man known worldwide for his soulful voice, as well as his singular and unparalleled drumming and multi-instrumental skills, permitted a camera crew inside his home to show the world an intimate side of his art and life. Of the film, longtime Helm collaborator and musical director Larry Campbell says, “Jacob was the perfect fly on the wall for many months as we experienced the ups and downs of a wonderful time in all our lives.” The result is a rare, artful and honest glimpse into the fascinating world of one of our true American treasures, Levon Helm.