Overheard on CNN.com: Levon Helm 'true to his roots as a sunrise over a cotton field'
Levon Helm performs with The Band at the Fillmore East in New York in May 1969.
April 20th, 2012
08:46 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Levon Helm 'true to his roots as a sunrise over a cotton field'

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

Levon Helm of The Band died Thursday. Known for his distinctive voice, his passing has placed an enormous weight on the hearts of many of his fans. They've come to CNN.com to take a load off their sorrows and share their love of their singer.

Levon Helm, co-founder of The Band, dead at 71

One reader said they got to witness what some say is Helm's greatest-ever performance along with a slate of performers including Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Neil Young, Ronnie Hawkins, Joni Mitchell and Neil Diamond.

jls22: "I was there on that historic Thanksgiving evening in 1976. The musical genius and energy in the room that night is forever etched in my memory. I meet you back stage at a concert some years later with The Hawk, your spirit and enthusiasm as strong as ever. My deepest condolences to Sandy and Amy, Ronnie and Wanda. You're with Rick and Richard now. Play on, gentlemen, play on. Rest In Peace Levon."

Some praised the simplicity of Helm's work.

Dorothea777: "There was no artifice in Levon, no gimmicks, no prancing about in meat suits or lining up a passel of dancing girls. He didn't need any of that. Levon was wonderful just as he was, and as true to his roots as a sunrise over a cotton field in East Arkansas. A magnificent voice and a massive talent, honed in a world that hardly exists anymore, an honest world that values the real, everlasting things. My condolences to his family and friends, and my gratitude that so long as a single recording of Levon exists, he will still live for us. Hung be the heavens with black."

This person got to meet Helm.

DGVAN: "A sad occasion as another wonderful voice from music's golden age is now silent. I had the pleasure of meeting Levon back in the late 70's when I worked for his record label and spent a day with him doing some press and publicity stuff. A true southern gentleman who called me "sir" even though I was 12 years younger. Thank you for your music. The weight is off sir, rest easy with The Band-mates who you're now re-united with."

Another has a somewhat saucy tale to relate.

citizenUSA: "I was fortunate enough to have met and talked with Levon. The first time was on Overlook Mountain. The same mountain where Big Pink is/was. A friend of mine had a family summer home on it. We knew about Big Pink. We had to pass it every time going up or down the mountain. We'd always see cars but never saw any people except this one time. We caught all of them standing on the front porch of the house. Bob Dylan was there too. We just drove by shouting and honking. The girls waved their golden bozos at them. The guys laughingly waved back. A few years later I met him again. I had a job at The Fillmore East and actually got to talk with him several times. He didn't remember me from Big Pink but he remembered the event and was really tripping out that I was one of the people in the car. He was one of the subtly, funniest guys I've known. Always ready to listen to and tell stories about almost anything. Thanks for everything. RIP."

Why do fans love Helm so much? Here's one explanation.

trickbunny: "R.I.P. Mr. Helm. He was one of the kind of musicians I respect and admire the most- the kind who is capable of some very savvy, technically brilliant playing (while singing at the same time, no less), but he never showed off or seemed to *need* a spotlight as a performer. He was capable of playing and singing us all under the table, but chose not to. For anyone who's never seen it, watch 'The Last Waltz' sometime. Even if The Band's music is not your cup of tea, you'll admire and respect Helm's (and his bandmates') talents. He'll be missed."

For many, the film "The Last Waltz" is the tribute of choice.

Zaoldyeck: "My aunt has been to Big Pink (the house) a number of times, knew Helm and I always kinda hoped one day I'd be able to meet him. It's sad to see him go, he was a brilliant artist. I've got the Last Waltz soundtrack on, I feel it's appropriate. (I know he disliked the movie because it was too focused on Robertson, but he sure did sing his heart out at that concert.)"

The music transcends the decades, said this reader.

KaMaGu: "This 20-something knew who he was. Loved him, and will greatly miss him. There will never be another Levon, or The Band. The music he made is timeless, and age is not a barrier when the songs are powerful, honest, and heartfelt."

And, inevitably, something of a debate popped up.

Ferdinand Marcos: "Hello CNN the line is 'Take a load off, FANNY' not 'Annie' – geez!"

Lucygal: "Epic-wrong!!"

Piltdown: "Robbie Robertson wrote the song for Levon's friend, Anna Lee Amsden, so where the heel do you get Fannie?"

buddyg10: "The song wasn't written for Levon's friend. Many of the characters are based on friends as Levon said in his book. The line 'what about young Anna Lee' refers to his friend. Crazy Chester is about somebody they knew as is Luke. The line however is Fannie."

The same debate was playing out in our newsroom as well.

‘The Weight' of our ears: Take a load off ... who?

On this blog post, the majority of readers said the name is Fanny, but the response was not unanimous.

Arkie: "It's Fanny. I'm from the same part of Arkansas as Levon and have the same accent. I've never had any trouble understanding his lyrics –- it is definitely Fanny."

Barry: "The answer is 'Fanny.' The only place its identifiable is in the last verse, 'Catch a cannon ball to take me down the line. My bag is sinking low and I do believe there's time. To get back to Miss FANNY.' Case closed."

Texan1: "I never knew this was an issue. I've always thought it was 'Annie' ... Now I'll have to go listen to the song again."

Jimmy the geek: "Or could it be Granny?"

One reader said the debate is all in fun, and went on to describe some other "misheard" lyrics they love.

JESSIE: "I've heard it sung with both names; but 'Fanny' always sound better to me. Maybe the reason The Band never officially settled the dispute was that they thought it was fun to keep everyone guessing and liked having a little bit of mystery around that song. Keeps it alive. Some of my faves are:

1. 'Forever in Blue Jeans' ... 'Reverend Blue Jeans'
2. 'There's a Bad Moon on the Rise' ... 'There's a Bathroom on the Right'
3. 'Our Father Who Art in Heaven, Hallowed by the Name' ... 'Our Father Who Art in Heaven, Harold is Your Name'"

Want to remember Levon Helm? Got a favorite debated lyric? Share your opinion in the comments area below and in the latest stories on CNN.com. Or sound off on video via CNN iReport.

Compiled by the CNN.com moderation staff. Some comments edited for length or clarity.

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Filed under: Music • Overheard on CNN.com • Showbiz
soundoff (20 Responses)
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  3. Bobby Dias

    CNN would politicalize a music man's career- after he cannot defend himself because he is dead.

    April 23, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
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