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‘People want freedom’ – A tribute to Levon Helm

By Bill Shipsey, Art for Amnesty founder and executive producer of the song “Toast To Freedom”

US musician and active human rights supporter Levon Helm passed away on 19 April 2012. “Toast to Freedom”, a commemorative song celebrating Amnesty International and set for release this May, began in his barn (Levon Helm Studios) and spread to all corners of the world.

This song and tribute to Amnesty International simply would not have happened without Levon.

He was our host at his recording studio home and barn, our drummer, our leader, and our friend.

He kept repeating “people want freedom”, and that is what they got from Levon.

We in Amnesty owe him a huge debt. The best way to repay that debt to him is by continuing our work.

Levon Helm created some musical magic for Amnesty. This happens when goodness and love combine with kindness and art to produce beauty and power leading to unarmed truth – still the most powerful thing in the universe.

Thank you Levon. Brave warrior of the heart and soul. Gentle leader of our band of freedom toasters.

“Love, respect and forgiveness” – as the lyrics of the song go.
Fellow musician Larry Campbell announced the sad news in a statement to RollingStone.com: “He passed away peacefully … surrounded by his friends and bandmates.

“All his friends were there, and it seemed like Levon was waiting for them. Ten minutes after they left we sat there and he just faded away. He did it with dignity. It was even two days ago they thought it would happen within hours, but he held on. It seems like he was Levon up to the end, doing it the way he wanted to do it. He loved us, we loved him.”

Read more:

US rock musician remembered for human rights activism (News story, 20 April 2012)