Mavis Staples and the estate of the late Levon Helm have shared a collaborative cover of Nina Simone‘s “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free”. The track will appear on the duo’s forthcoming live album, Carry Me Home, out on May 20th via ANTI-Records.
Recorded live at The Band drummer’s famed Woodstock, NY home studio/concert venue, Carry Me Home captures the last meeting of two friends. Helm and Staples first crossed paths in 1976 when The Staple Singers joined The Band on a moving rendition of “The Weight” for The Last Waltz. Nearly four decades later, Staples drove up to Woodstock on June 3rd, 2011 for one of Helm’s legendary Midnight Rambles. The drummer passed away from a prolonged battle with throat cancer ten months later.
“It never crossed my mind that it might be the last time we’d see each other,” Staples said of the session. “He was so full of life and so happy that week. He was the same old Levon I’d always known, just a beautiful spirit inside and out. […] We hugged and hugged and hugged. I just held on to him. I didn’t know it’d be the last time, but in my heart and in my mind, Levon will always be with me because I take him everywhere I go. Yes, indeed. I can see him right now. And some sweet day, we’ll be together again.”
Though he was reaching the end of his life when he recorded Carry Me Home, the collection is imbued with the vibrancy that defined Helm’s half-century in music. The record captures the two friends sharing the stage for songs by The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and even The Band. This rendition of “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free” is accompanied by onstage and backstage footage of Helm and Staples carrying on like old friends.
Watch Mavis Staples and Levon Helm perform “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free” by Nina Simone and click here to pre-order Carry Me Home. Staples will celebrate the album’s release on May 20th with a concert alongside Helm’s daughter Amy Helm at Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM). The two will also perform together the following night at the Dirt Farmer Festival with the Midnight Ramble Band. For tickets and a full list of Mavis Staples tour dates visit her website.
Mavis Staples, Levon Helm – “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free” (Nina Simone) – 6/3/11