Unreleased Levon Helm Song to Benefit Amnesty International

Parts of 'Toast to Freedom' were recorded in Helm's home studio

Levon Helm performs at The Beacon Theatre in New York.
Matthew Eisman/Getty Images
May 2, 2012 5:55 PM ET

One of Levon Helm's last studio recordings will be available for sale this Thursday to benefit Amnesty International, reports the Associated Press. Helm recorded the instrumental tracks and some vocals for "Toast to Freedom" last summer in his Woodstock home studio with friend and producer Larry Campbell. The track also features stars Ewan McGregor, Kris Kristofferson, Carly Simon, Taj Mahal and Rosanne Cash.

"When we recorded the original rhythm track for this, it was such a great day. Everybody was just completely in the spirit of the cause, the spirit of the song and the spirit of the music," said Campbell of the track, which celebrates Amnesty International's 50th anniversary. "One of the great things about working with Levon was he always made playing music a joyful event, and I know he wanted to see this thing through as far as he could."

Campbell also revealed that Helm had hoped to perform the song in concert before his passing. "I just feel like his spirit was so much in line with the spirit of this song that he’ll be missed when we do it," he said.

Despite Helm's involvement, the idea for "Freedom" began with producer Carl Carlton and former music exec Jochen Wilms. After Carlton approached Amnesty International for their support, he linked up with Campbell, who then brought in Helm. After that, Carlton set out to recruit more collaborators and ended up with around 50 musicians.

Levon Helm, best known as the singer and drummer of the Band, passed away on April 19th. He was 71.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

Music Main Next

blog comments powered by Disqus
Around the Web
Powered By ZergNet
Daily Newsletter

Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
marketing partners.


We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

Song Stories


The Commodores | 1984

The year after soul legends Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson died, songwriter Dennis Lambert asked members of the Commodores to give him a tape of ideas. "And the one from Walter Orange has this wonderful bass line," said co-writer Franne Golde. "Plus the lyric, 'Marvin, he was a friend of mine' ... Within 10 minutes, we had decided it should be something like a modern R&B version of 'Rock 'n' Roll Heaven,' and I just said, 'Nightshift.'" This tribute to the recently deceased musicians was the band's only hit without Lionel Richie, who had left for a solo career.

More Song Stories entries »