The Band's Levon Helm dies at 71

 

When Levon Helm was diagnosed with throat cancer more than a decade ago he feared he would never sing again

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Levon Helm, singer and drummer for rock group The Band, has died of cancer at the age of 71.

The folk-rock musician died at a New York hospital surrounded by friends and family, manager Barbara O'Brien said.

The Band famously toured with Bob Dylan in 1965, '66 and '74 and collaborated on The Basement Tapes in 1967.

In a statement on his website, Dylan said: "He was my bosom buddy friend to the end, one of the last true great spirits of my or any other generation."

He added: "I still can remember the first day I met him and the last day I saw him. We go back pretty far and had been through some trials together.

"I'm going to miss him, as I'm sure a whole lot of others will too."

Helm, who was born in Arkansas in May 1940, had been in the final stages of throat cancer, which was first diagnosed in 1998.

His bandmate Garth Hudson, part of the band's original quintet, paid tribute to his friend on his website.

"Thank you for 50 years of friendship and music. No more sorrows, no more troubles, no more pain. He went peacefully to that beautiful marvellous wonderful place. Levon, I'm proud of you."

The Band - who settled on the 'no-frills' name after touring with various artists including Dylan and Ronnie Hawkins - made their recording debut in 1968 with the album Music From the Big Pink.

They reached the height of their popularity in the 1970s, and had several big hits, including Rag Mama Rag and The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.

Start Quote

All his friends were there, and it seemed like Levon was waiting for them”

End Quote Larry Campbell Guitarist

Helm's southern-inflected singing-style carried the vocals on several tracks, including The Weight.

Dylan joined them in Martin Scorsese's The Last Waltz, which documented the Band's last live performance together in 1976, alongside Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell.

The Band briefly reunited in the 1980s, and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. They received a Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 2008.

Latterly, Helm toured with Ringo Starr's All Starr Band in the 1980s and won multiple Grammy awards for his albums Dirt Farmer, Electric Dirt and Ramble at the Ryman, as well as one in 2011 for a live recording in Nashville, Tennessee.

Elton John's 1971 song Levon was inspired by Helm - and the name Levon is among the names chosen for his baby son.

"He passed away peacefully at 1:30 this afternoon surrounded by his friends and bandmates," longtime friend and guitarist Larry Campbell told Rolling Stone.

"All his friends were there, and it seemed like Levon was waiting for them. Ten minutes after they left, we sat there and he just faded away. He did it with dignity."

 

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 58.

    i did not know him,but i loved his music,sad,sad day r.i.p

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 57.

    There is always long distance of highway , nobody knows
    what the end is . For me, looking at the further away , I can find
    enlightened imagination , it's my treasure .
    ' The Weight' is almost the champion as the usher .
    It is not only for 'the Moses ' , but also the power of sound .
    Thank you !

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 56.

    The Band had a sound which was quite unique, especially on the first album. Levon Helm was a large part of the sound that made them so very special. It was very sad to hear he had passed away.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 55.

    Van Morrison and The Band playing 'Caravan' on The Last Waltz is one of the best live performances I have ever seen. The grin on Levon Helm's face as VM starts his bizarre but magnificent high-kicking finale is just wonderful.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 54.

    Going to play King Harvest in his honour. great man.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 53.

    What a loss, the passing of Levon Helm. But I am shocked that I didn't hear a thing about this today on BBC radio, I was beginning to doubt what I'd heard. Surely this was a newsworthy story. Shame on the news people.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 52.

    I have only just heard the sad news. The last waltz is a great film, and a lasting tribute to Levon, Richard and Rick. Together with the fine albums, music from the big pink, the band and rock of ages. The world is a poorer place today. RIP Levon.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 51.

    A truly wonderful musician. With the other members of The Band had made two of the most perfect albums ever made. Music From The Big Pink and The Band. a very sad day but he has left behind some wonderful music .

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 50.

    It's been a bad day for music. RIP.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 49.

    A voice that captured the entire history of the southeast mountain southern experience. All of those Band songs, which were like great literary tales out of William Faulkner or Eudora Welty, sung in the high-lonesome voice of the late Richard Manual, the uncontrolled Rebel Yell of the late Rick Danko, and tenant farmer weariness of Levon Helm will all finally not be sung again.--Bob Heister

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 48.

    First heard the news late yesterday here in NYC. I thought immediately of the words Shannon McNally used when she dedicated her album, 'Geronimo' to him - "The Diamond in my Mine" (hope I got that right). He was the Heart & Soul of The Band.
    A Great in every sense of the word.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 47.

    41. WiseOldBob
    Heaven is about to get a lot noisier was spot on!
    ===

    What louder than Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Brian Jones, Steve Marriot, Keith Moon, Sandy Denny, John Martyn, J L Hooker..... I could go on, I'm sure you're getting the picture ;-)

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 46.

    33.Happy Barrel
    The BBC spent more time on this than on the French presidential election this morning"
    **
    Possibly because while local politicians can come & go, music & culture are global & irreplaceable.Rest in peace Mr. Levon.You were a great artist.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 45.

    I remember Levon Helm, playing before 42,000 fans at Toronto's Varsity Stadium in 1974.
    That image has become a part of my indelible memory.
    Great, great performer, sad loss at only 71.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 44.

    I would also give a shout-out to the underrated 'Cahoots.' Btw, Levon was no mean mandolin player, either. Robertson composed all the songs, but his wintry canadian soul needed some southern comfort.. and that was Helm.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 43.

    17.Old_Frank

    "Levon, thanks for helping me get through the 70s."

    I think that Levon Helm and his contemporaries helped a lot of us through the 70's. Unfortunately and inadvertently that only went and helped us straight into the 80's. Not their fault, I know. . .

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 42.

    A true musical legend - RIP Mr Helm, we will not see your like again.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 41.

    Cue one impromptu jam session with Bert Weedon in the queue at the Pearly Gates. Oh: and Jim Marshall in recent days too: the bloke who said that Heaven is about to get a lot noisier was spot on!

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 40.

    "The BBC spent more time on this than on the French presidential election this morning."

    - Quite right too, its never too late to snub the french, just ask any English monarch from the last 500 years or so...

    Joking aside, its sad to see people from this musical era start to depart. Music has lost much of the importance that it had in his heyday so its right to acknowledge his passing.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 39.

    I once heard that if you look up the word 'Gentleman' in the dictionary, it says 'see - Levon Helm'. What better obituary could a man have. One of my true musical heroes.

 

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