“‘Play the song.’
“A rather simple and innocuous little comment, isn’t it?
“Could be something as innocent as a request directed at a disc jockey or a plea from an impatient club owner to a beleaguered band.
“But no, this time those three words are a nugget of advice from one of the most legendary and well-respected musicians in the annals of modern music – Mr. Levon Helm.
““That’s one of the greatest pieces of advice he gave me. Play the song, don’t use the song for whatever it is you’re trying to do … like getting up there and showing off or showing everybody what you know. I remember him telling a guitar player, ‘There’s a lot of notes, did you really have to play all of them?’” said singer, song-writer, harpist and bandleader Chris O’Leary. “He would say, ‘Play the song. Go up there and if you’re soloing, if you’re singing or if you’re playing rhythm, forward the song. Whatever the song may be, support it. That’s a lesson that has carried me – among a zillion others that he taught me.””