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Levon Helm Passes Away at Age 71

It’s been a week of loss in the entertainment industry: first Dick Clark, and now rock legend Levon Helm. After a long bout with throat cancer, Helm passed quietly in his sleep on April 19, surrounded by friends. He was 71.

Helm is probably best known as the drummer for The Band, the legendary roots-rock group from the ‘60s and ‘70s. His lead vocals appear on The Band’s hit songs like “Cripple Creek” and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” He has also done solo work, and played in other acts like Levon and the Hawks. He even did some acting in his time, most notably playing Loretta Lynn’s father in Coal Miner’s Daughter.

Helm had been battling throat cancer since the late 1990s, initially undergoing radiation treatments that severely damaged his voice. Even so, remarkably, Helm recovered enough of his voice to win a Grammy Award for his solo effort Dirt Farmer in 2007. He remained active until the weeks before his death, including hosting “The Midnight Rambles” sessions at his home studio in Woodstock, NY.

Levon and The Band became Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees in 1994. The Band never matched many of its peer groups in record sales, but its influence on American music can’t be overstated. Not bad for a band that actually hailed from Canada (Levon Helm was its only American member).

Levon Helm leaves behind a long legacy. He will be missed.

(PHOTO CREDIT: David Gans/Flickr)

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About the Author


Tim Ferrar's interest in pop and rock started as a child, listening to Top-40 radio for hours on end while playing air guitar in his bedroom. Eventually air guitar led to electric guitar, and Tim began playing in bands and writing his own songs. With an admitted weakness for "a great hook or a great guitar riff," Tim's musical tastes are broad and varied, ranging from Michael Jackson and Lady Gaga on the pop side to Bon Jovi and Foo Fighters on the rock side- making him the ideal guy to cover our Rock and Pop categories. By day, Tim is a mild-mannered accountant in Chicago. By night, he rocks out on electric guitar in a cover band in various clubs around town- much to the surprise of some of his clients.

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