Levon Helm, longtime drummer in The Band, dies at 71

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 19, 2012 3:33 PM
Levon Helm, longtime drummer in The Band, dies at 71

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Drummer Levon Helm, a longtime member of The Band, died on Thursday after a long battle with throat cancer. He was 71.

Helm, who also toured with Ringo Starr's All Star band in the 1980s and won a 2011 Grammy Award, had canceled recent gigs due to his health.

"Levon Helm passed peacefully this afternoon," Barbara O'Brien, Helm's manager, said in a statement. "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."

The drummer's death came days after his wife Sandy and daughter Amy on April 17 posted a message on his official website saying that Helm "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."

Helm was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1998. At one point, the Arkansas native lost his voice to cancer and he almost lost his Woodstock, New York home due to mounting medical bills.

Instead, he turned his home, better known as The Barn, into a weekly concert hall that attracted sell-out crowds, big names such as Emmylou Harris and Kris Kristofferson and ended up both paying the mortgage and rejuvenating Helm's career.

Helm was best known for his years with The Band, where he played drums, guitar and mandolin and sang until the group's 1976 "The Last Waltz" farewell performance, which was filmed by director Martin Scorsese.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Writing By Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Paul Thomasch)