Levon Helm of The Band Dies of Cancer at 71

As we reported earlier this week, The Band’s Levon Helm had been fighting through the “final stages of his battle with cancer,” and now it has been reported that Helm has succumbed to the disease.

Helm was The Band’s “legendary” drummer as well as providing vocals on tracks such as “Up on Cripple Creek” and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” and was the musical act’s only US-born member. His vocals lent an undeniable Southern flavor to The Band’s jams, and the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame said of the group’s impact and stylistic influence:

“The Band, more than any other group, put rock and roll back in touch with its roots. With their ageless songs and solid grasp of musical idioms, The Band reached across the decades, making connections for a generation that was, as an era of violent cultural schisms wound down, in desperate search of them.”

Of his distinctive and homey vocals, in an interview a few years back, Helm said:

“I’ve always thought of myself as the drummer… I would take my turn to sing whenever I had to, but my joy is to play the drums, of course, and the singing part was just something I glommed my way into.”

Earlier this week on Facebook, Levon Helm’s wife Sandy and daughter Amy left the following message for well-wishing fans of the drummer:

“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.”

Helm had been battling cancer since the late 1990s.