The gang may have said goodbye to The last Waltz in 1976, but seven years later, they hit the road again. Guitarist Robbie Robertson refused to participate, however, so the other four members persevered without him. The audience was smaller than in the 1970s, but Levon Helm, Richard Manuel and Rick Danko still sang the classics with incredible power.
Things got tough by the time the tour hit Florida in 1986. âThe guy who booked us had it programmed to run hundreds of miles between relatively small clubs,â Levon Helm wrote in his memoir. , This wheel is on fire. âIt was a lot of travel and not a lot of dignity. Everyone had a cold, and the crew began to jokingly refer to this trip as the “Death Tour”.
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Keyboardist Richard Manuel had a serious drinking problem at this point, and some nights his voice was excruciating. He hanged himself in his hotel room on March 4 after a performance at the Cheek to Cheek Lounge in Winter Park, Florida. âI rushed into Richard’s bathroom and fell in shock,â Helm wrote. “He had buckled his belt around his neck and wrapped the other end around the curtain rod, near the wall bracket where it would support his weight.”
It was a macabre death, and it caused the group to split up for a few years. They started touring again in the late 1980s, and in 1993 they decided to record their first album since. Isle in 1977. They centered Jericho around covers of songs by Bob Dylan, Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon and Artie Traum. The highlight was “Atlantic City” by Bruce Springsteen, sung by Levon Helm. Here is a live version from 1994.
Jericho received positive reviews, but didn’t make much of an impact in a market dominated by new releases from Pearl Jam, Nirvana, and Whitney Houston. They released another LP in 1998, but went their separate ways in 1999 when Rick Danko passed away after a decades-long battle with drugs. Levon Helm retained “Atlantic City” in his solo repertoire, playing it on countless Midnight Rambles during the last years of his life.