Iconic drummer Levon Helm, one of the founders of The Band, is losing his battle with cancer.
In a statement at levonhelm.com, his family has posted the following message:
“Levon is in the final stages of his battle with cancer. Please send your prayers and love to him as he makes his way through this part of his journey. Thank you fans and music lovers who have made his life so filled with joy and celebration… he has loved nothing more than to play, to fill the room up with music, lay down the back beat, and make the people dance! He did it every time he took the stage…
“We appreciate all the love and support and concern.
“From his daughter Amy, and wife Sandy”
The 71-year old drummer has left a remarkable legacy. His unique drumming style was the signature sound behind songs like ‘Up On Cripple Creek’, ‘The Weight’ and ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down’ for The Band.
Helm joined Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks when he left school. His real name is Mark Lavon Helm but in his autobiography he wrote that the Canadian Hawks couldn’t pronounce Lavon properly. It came out as Levon. So the name stuck.
In 1964, he formed a band with Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson and Richard Manuel, all accomplished musicians at that point. They simply became known as The Band.
The Band was recruited by Bob Dylan and in 1967 they recorded ‘The Basement Tapes’. In 1974 they went out together on tour with The Band as Bob’s backing band.
Their own albums included the classics ‘Music From Big Pink’ (Featuring The Weight) (1968) and ‘The Band’ (featuring The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down) (1969).
When The Band broke up in 1976, Martin Scorsese captured their final concert. It was released as the movie ‘The Last Waltz’. ‘The Last Waltz’ featured an all-star cast including Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Ringo Starr, Dr John, Joni Mitchell and Neil Diamond.
After the band broke up, Levon was heavily in demand for other artists but also dabbled in acting. He played Loretta Lynn’s father on the bio-pic ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’.
Elton John’s ‘Levon’ was named after Levon Helm.