The Band Play “Don’t Do It” Featuring Levon Helm

Levon Helm,1976 (Photo: David Gans)

Listen to this track by Canadian-American modern roots music architects The Band, here featuring the impossibly funky drummer-singer Levon Helm. It’s “Don’t Do It” as taken from the landmark 1972 live album Rock of Ages, a Holland-Dozier-Holland composition originally recorded by Marvin Gaye in 1964,  but utterly redefined here by Helm and his bandmates.

This version of the song was released as a single, scoring #34 on the Billboard top 100. More importantly, it would become a live staple for the group into the 1970s, featuring most prominently in the milestone farewell concert The Last Waltz as a closing number, and an opening number to Martin Scorcese’s film of the same name.

But, what makes the Band’s take on the song so special is largely down to Helm, on one of his most distinct vocal spotlights, weaving in and out with Rick Danko’s burbling bassline,  Richard Manuel‘s ‘rhythm piano’, Garth Hudson’s organic sonic colours, Robbie Robertson’s tearaway guitar stabs, and of course the horns, arranged by Allen Toussaint.

Among other things of course is that this song is one of the key documents that proves not only how potent the Band were as a live unit, and about their uniqueness in general. It also demonstrates something about Levon Helm as a musician. Read more