Levon Helm dead; The Band drummer was 71
Woodstock resident Levon Helm, a Grammy-winning rock and folk musician best known for his work with The Band, has died after a battle with throat cancer. He was 71.
On Tuesday, a message on his website said he was in the final stages of cancer. He succumbed to the illness Thursday.
Helm and his bandmates — Canadians Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, Robbie Robertson and Richard Manuel — were musical virtuosos who returned to the roots of American music in the late 1960s as other rockers veered into psychedelia, heavy metal and jams. The group's 1968 debut, "Music From the Big Pink," and its follow-up, "The Band," remain landmark albums of the era, and songs such as "The Weight," ''Dixie Down" and "Cripple Creek" have become rock standards.
Helm drummed and sang with The Band at the legendary Woodstock Arts and Music Festival in 1969, but the town also became his home. Beset by debt, in 2004 he began a series of free-wheeling late night shows in his barn in Woodstock that were patterned after medicine shows from his youth. The Levon Helm Band — featuring Helm, his daughter, Amy, and fellow veteran musicians — headlined these Midnight Ramble concerts, which encouraged “everyone to bring food or a side dish for our community table for all to share.”
Helm performed frequently throughout the Hudson Valley. He had scheduled a May 25 performance at the Ulster Performing Arts Center in Kingston, and wowed crowds routinely at Tarrytown Music Hall, most recently during two shows on March 23 and 24.
Björn Olsson, executive director at Tarrytown Music Hall, says other than “looking a little frail,” Helm “rocked both shows, full-out.”
“All of his shows here were some of the best we’ve ever seen,” Olsson said.