Buses filled with neighbours, friends and fans of The Band's Levon Helm travelled to his Woodstock, N.Y. home on Thursday to pay their final respects to the singer-songwriter and musician.

The 71-year-old Helm died in New York on April 19, days after his family revealed that he was in the final stages of a battle with cancer fight.

Helm's family greeted visitors at Thursday's public memorial, which was held at his home studio dubbed The Barn, where he performed his famed Saturday night Midnight Ramble concerts.

'He had a level of humanity over and above a mere rock star. Plus, he was a hell of a musician.'—Levon Helm fan Pat McCabe

Mourners quietly filed past Helm's closed casket, which was placed on the second floor of the barn and surrounded by flowers. His drum kit and a piano were also nearby.

"He was my idol," said college student Dan McCabe, who played in a jazz band that performed at a Ramble concert and is pursuing a career in music production.

"He used his fame for good," added McCabe's father, Pat.

"He took time to give benefits for schools all over the area. He had a level of humanity over and above a mere rock star. Plus, he was a hell of a musician."

The Helm family arranged for buses to convey mourners to their home from three locations in Woodstock.


Levon Helm, seen performing in May 2010 during one of his famed Ramble concerts at his Woodstock home studio The Barn, was 'a hell of a musician,' one fan said Thursday. (John DeSanto/Times Herald-Record/Associated Press)

Helm was "an icon but also the guy next door," remarked Al Caron, who was among the fans queuing outside the Woodstock Playhouse.  

"He played music on the village green," Caron said. "The Rambles were like a revival meeting. There was just a sense of euphoria from the minute you arrived at his home and he will be missed."

Helm was widely praised as the drummer and occasional vocalist of The Band, which also included Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson and Richard Manuel. After the group broke up in 1976, he had a successful solo career and also took on several film roles.

Most recently, he was celebrated for his Ramble concerts and recordings, for which he performed with a series of musical guests.

After a private funeral on Friday, Helm will be buried in Woodstock Cemetery next to his former bandmate Danko, who died in 1999.

With files from The Associated Press