Rolling Stone reports that Levon Helm, the great Americana drummer and singer, has died in New York, a few days after his family posted a statement that he was in the “final stages” of cancer. Helm, a former member of the Band, had been battling throat cancer for more than a decade. He was 71.
The Arkansas-born Helm got his start in the Hawks, the backing band for the Canada-based rockabilly musician Ronnie Hawkins. The Hawks eventually split with Hawkins, touring with Helm as the frontman and eventually backing Bob Dylan on tour and on The Basement Tapes. In 1967, after Helm had left for a couple of years to work on oil rigs, they became simply the Band, the iconic country-rock group who released a string of classics (e.g., their debut Music From Big Pink in ’68) and had Martin Scorsese document their star-studded final show with the great concert film The Last Waltz. He went on to tour and record with various later versions of the Band and, later, performed as an actor (see Coal Miner’s Daughter) and solo artist. Below, watch him at work.