Helm, former Band member, dies at 71

Levon Helm, the multi-instrumentalist member of The Band, died today after a battle with cancer. He was 71.

“Levon Helm passed peacefully this afternoon,” his family said in a Facebook message. “He was surrounded by family, friends and band mates and will be remembered by all he touched as a brilliant musician and a beautiful soul.”

Born on May 26, 1940, Helm is likely to be remembered as the vocalist on some of The Band’s most beloved songs, from “The Weight” to “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” to “Up on Cripple Creek.”

“Thank you for 50 years of friendship and music,” fellow Band member Garth Hudson said in a statement on his website. “He went peacefully to that beautiful marvelous place. … Levon, I’m proud of you.”

As a member of The Band, Helm performed drums, guitar, bass and mandolin. In recent years, Helm experienced a creative renaissance, holding Midnight Rambles at his studio in Woodstock, New York, a series of live conccerts that also kept Helm relevant for a new generation of musicians.

In 2009, Atlanta’s own The Black Crowes recorded their album “Before the Frost…Until the Freeze” at Helm’s studio.

Although The Band broke up after 1976’s The Last Waltz, the group re-formed a few years later without guitarist Robbie Robertson. The group continued to perform until 1999.

For years, Helm held animosity toward Robertson, calling The Last Waltz a “disaster” in his 1993 autobiography. But, on Sunday, Robertson visited Helm in the hospital.

“Levon is one of the most extraordinary talented people I’ve ever known and very much like an older brother to me,” Robertson said in a statement on Facebook. “I am so grateful I got to see him one last time and will miss him and love him forever.”

 

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