Levon Helm, the famous drummer for The Band, is nearing the final stages of his battle with cancer. According to his wife and daughter, the 71-year-old musician and actor's throat cancer has worsened and he is close to the end of his life. In a statement on Helm's website his family wrote, "Please send your prayers and love to him as he makes his way through this part of his journey."
Helm will leave behind a lasting legacy of professionalism and respect. As a drummer, he first hit the scene in the 1950s as part of The Hawks, a group which eventually wound-up being Bob Dylan's back-up band for a time before having a tremendous career on their own, known simply as The Band. In fact, they got the name for their group from the fact that when they toured with Dylan, they'd be referred to as "Bob Dylan and the band." The name stuck, and the group shot to fame and became one of the highly regarded bands of the 1970s.
In 1978 The Band was ready to go their own separate ways and so they decided to do one last farewell show in San Francisco. The show was filmed by Martin Scorsese and it became "The Last Waltz," one of the best concert documentaries ever produced. Inter-cut with the performance, Scorsese got Helm and his band mate Robbie Robertson to open up about their lives as a touring band, and the interviews are just as important to the film's impact as the musical performances.
It was around that time that Levon started doing a little acting. In 1980 he debuted in probably his most memorable performance as Loretta Lynn's father in "Coal Miner's Daughter." The film co-starred Sissy Spacek and Tommy Lee Jones and got Spacek the Best Actress Academy Award. Helm also narrated and had a small part in the space-flight drama "The Right Stuff."
In 1998 Helm had his first brush with cancer. For a time the sickness and treatments took his voice from him. He was able to recover it though, and started making music again. This year he won a Grammy for Best Americana Album, which he also won in 2010. His 2007 album "Dirt Farmer" also won a Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album. At the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremonies last week, Robertson sent him "prayers and love."
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