Mavis Staples and Levon Helm share a prescient performance of “This May Be The Last Time” in the final preview for Carry Me Home. The collaborative live album between the friends and collaborators is out tomorrow, May 20th, via ANTI-Records.
The performance took place on June 3rd, 2011, when Staples drove up to The Band drummer/vocalist’s hallowed Woodstock, NY barn. This brief clip shows the two friends of five decades sharing a song on the porch like any other day. A pair of acoustic guitars set the pre-show mood as Staples and Helm warm up with this gospel standard The Staples Singers released in 1955, which ultimately inspired the Rolling Stones song “The Last Time”. Levon is visibly frail in the video, his voice strained from the throat cancer that ultimately took his life on April 19th, 2012.
Related: Mavis Staples & Levon Helm Share Nina Simone Cover From ‘Carry Me Home’ Live Album [Video]
Despite Helm’s poor health, or perhaps because of it, Carry Me Home stands as a crucial document of The Band songwriter’s later years. Out of the turmoil caused by his throat cancer—first diagnosed in 1998—and mounting medical bills came the Midnight Rambles. Top musicians of past and present made the pilgrimage to Woodstock to play at Levon’s intimate barn. Staples was no different, as she arrived on that June afternoon to check in on an old friend, whom she first met when The Staples Singers sang “The Weight” with The Band for The Last Waltz.
“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.”
Watch Levon Helm and Mavis Staples perform “This May Be The Last Time” 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 – “This May Be The Last Time” (Traditional) – 6/3/11