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.