Levon Helm, R.I.P.
Sad news from Woodstock, N.Y., today: Levon Helm, drummer and singer for The Band and a Grammy Award-winning solo artist, has died.
Helm, 71, was diagnosed with throat cancer in the late 1990s. Intensive radiation treatment left him with a raspy voice that can be heard on the album Dirt Farmer (2007). Nevertheless, the Arkansas native carried on a busy touring schedule and hosted “Midnight Ramble” events at his barn in Woodstock.
After backing Bob Dylan on his notorious 1965-66 “electric” tours, The Band released its first album in 1968, Music from Big Pink, which included one of the group’s signature songs “The Weight.” The Band followed that with The Band album, which included “Up On Cripple Creek,” “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” and “Rag Mama Rag.” Helm played drums and sang with The Band until 1999, when bassist-singer Rick Danko died.
Helm was also an actor; he appeared in a number of theatrical and TV movies, including Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980), The Right Stuff (1983), Fire Down Below (1997) and In The Electric Mist (2009).
Thanks to Art Meripol for graciously allowing the use of his photos.
YouTube: “I Shall Be Released” by Levon Helm and friends (2010 Newport Folk Festival)
YouTube: “Poor Old Dirt Farmer”
YouTube: “Ophelia” (2009)