Levon Helm was the best singing drummer in the world period. He inspired me at a very young age to sing while playing drums. The thing about Levon was that when he sang and played drums at the same time, neither suffered one bit. This is not an easy thing to do. He was such a soulful musician and person, with an unbelievable feel and musicality.
In my early days of playing drums with Sheryl Crow, I had the unlikely pleasure to play with Levon. He was very complimentary and encouraging. We were playing a few songs together for a TV show. It was Levon, Sheryl, James Taylor, and Steve Winwood. Levon was happy for me to play drums while he was on Mandolin. I have nothing against James Taylor, but the whole time while rehearsing, he kept trying to get Levon behind the drums. Levon was not having it, but Taylor just wouldn’t let it go. Finally, in front of everyone Levon said, "I think my man Jim has it well taken care of back there." Discussion over! Needless to say as a young drummer, getting the thumbs up from one of my heroes made an impact on me from that day forward.
I always go back to the Last Waltz. You watch that movie with all these legendary players, and the one person that stands out is Levon Helm. He was a star amongst the stars!
(Singing Drummer for Counting Crows)