Levon Helm, the legendary drummer and vocalist of The Band, has lost his battle with throat cancer. He was 71 years old.
A note was posted on his website on Tuesday by his daughter Amy and wife Sandy: "Levon 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. Thank you fans and music lovers who have made his life so filled with joy and celebration ... he has loved nothing more than to play, to fill the room up with music, lay down the back beat, and make the people dance! He did it every time he took the stage."
The Band first attracted attention in the mid-60s, when they were Bob Dylan's backup band. They released their 1968 album 'Music From The Big Pink' before performing at the legendary Woodstock Festival in 1969.
Their final show was captured in the 1976 Martin Scorsese-directed concert film, 'The Last Waltz.' It included guest appearances from their friends Emmylou Harris, Neil Young and Dylan. For their outstanding catalogue, they were inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.
Helm's beat and distinctive vocals were the driving force for many of their popular songs - including 'Up On Cripple Creek,' 'Ophelia' 'The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down' and of course, 'The Weight.'
Helm went on to pursue a successful solo career and appeared in a few movies like 'Coal Miner's Daughter' and 'Shooter' before being diagnosed with throat cancer in 1998. His voice was initially reduced to a whisper, but recovered several years later leading to the LP 'Ramble At The Ryman,' which won the 2012 Grammy Award for Best Americana Album.
Watch The Band perform 'The Weight' from their 1978 concert film The Last Waltz:
CBC Music has an extensive tribute to Levon on their site. Click the link for some videos and an overview of the life of this very talented musician.