Ain’t In It For My Health: A Film About Levon Helm – Movie Review Canadian Music Week 2013

Ain’t In It For My Health: A Film About Levon Helm

T-Mak World has extensive coverage of Canadian Music Week here

March 13 2013 – Canadian Music Week (CMW) is a multi-faceted festival that runs in Toronto, Canada every March. Last year T-Mak World saw and reviewed 34 bands and interviewed 10 more. This year we expand our coverage to movies! Yes it is true, CMW features a movie festival as part of its programming and this year it is entitled Canadian Music Week FilmFest 13. The three day film festival runs from March 21-23rd and features 8 films that all screen at the TIFF Lightbox. The full schedule can be seen here. Advanced tickets are priced at $10 each and can be purchased online at or through Day of screening tickets will be available at the TIFF Bell Lightbox box office. The movie plays March 21st at 7:00 pm.

Today we review Ain’t In It For My Health: A Film About Levon Helm . The description on the film’s CMW page reads:

Filmed during the final years of his life, Ain’t In It For My Health sees Levon Helm forced to confront the dark times that have haunted him since The Band’s demise: throat cancer, bankruptcy, drug addiction and the tragic loss of band mates Richard Manuel and Rick Danko.

The first thing you will learn after watching this movie is that Levon Helm seemingly had a joint in his hand at all times. The documentary was made in 2010, almost prophetically, 2 years before Helm passed away at the age of 71. The movie recounts how Helm started his musical career as the only American boy in The Band  who started off in 1964. Pioneers in Rock (or Country, or Folk) music, Helm was the drummer and part singer of the band.

The movie is a fairly linear recap of Helm’s life but not in an extensive biopic form. Certain time-points are examined such as Woodstock, The Band’s addictions to booze and drugs, Helm’s Grammy for lifetime achievement, his bankruptcy and his cancer. Candid interviews with Helm reveal that the legendary musician whose mark in modern music is epic, is now a fairly subdued senior who likes his pot and loves his music. Most of the movie is focused on Helm at the time of filming and the 60’s,70’s and 80’s are represented but not as much as I would have liked.

As expected in these types of rockumentaries, the film is ripe with archival footage, home movies, and original family photos that have not been shown to the public till now. Helm’s mortality is closely examined with intimate visits to doctors inspecting his vocal chords which have been impacted by throat cancer. In fact watching this movie gives a quite abrupt reminder that health is the only thing that matters at the end of the day. I really wonder if Helm could do it all over again would his post-mortem documentary still be called “Ain’t In It For My Health”.

Verdict: 4 out of 5 – A fascinating documentary about Levon Helm filmed a couple of years before his death. The film portrays a man whose love of music supersedes fame, wealth and even health. What should be a celebration of his life, really ends up being a somewhat sobering view of a dying rock star.

Directors: Jacob Hatley
Running Time: 83 Minutes

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