That is Levon Helm, the great singer, drummer and co-founder of The Band, its lone American member, who died today of throat cancer at age seventy-one. He was, I think, referring to this passage in Emerson’s “Intellect”:
“The angels are so enamored of the language that is spoken in heaven, that they will not distort their lips with the hissing and unmusical dialects of men, but speak their own, whether there be any who understand it or not.”
Appropriately, it was my oldest son who told me of Helm’s death. The Band made some of the best music recorded in the nineteen-sixties, in particular their eponymously named second album, and I passed along my love of their work to him. Josh met Levon several years ago in Woodstock and had his picture taken with him. Here is The Band performing “The Weight” with the Staple Singers in The Last Waltz.