Levon Helm (1940 - 2012)

Levon Helm, who played drums for The Band and eventually had a critically acclaimed solo career, has lost his battle with cancer. He was 71.

Prior to the Band, Helm played with Ronnie Hawkins and The Hawks.  Among his bandmates were Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson. In 1963, they parted ways with Hawkins and went on the road as Levon and the Hawks, The Canadian Squires and, finally, the Hawks.

The Hawks were recruited as Bob Dylan's backing band when he started to play electric-folk; however, Helm took two years off. When the group moved to the Woodstock area with Dylan, Levon rejoined and the singer and the group recorded many demos that ended up being The Basement Tapes, one of the most sought after bootleg of the 70's.

In the late-60's, the Hawks changed their name to the Band and recorded the album Music From Big Pink (1968) followed by The Band (1969). The two albums contained such classics as The Night They Drove Old Dixie DownThe Weight and Up On Cripple Creek.

When the group broke up in 1976, Martin Scorsese captured the final moment. The movie featuring Neil Diamond, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Dr John, Bob Dylan and Ringo Starr was called The Last Waltz.

Levon also dabbled as an actor. He was best known for his role of Loretta Lynn’s father in Coal Miners Daughter but also appeared in The Right Stuff, Smooth Talk and Feeling Minnesota, among others. .

As a solo artist, he release numerous albums including a number documenting his yearly Midnight Ramble at the Ryman. His last three albums, Dirt Farmer (2007), Electric Dirt (2009) and Ramble At The Ryman (2011), all won Grammy Awards.

The statement at his official website reads, “Levon Helm passed peacefully this afternoon. 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”.

Additional reporting by VVN Music.

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