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Levon Helm of The Band passes away peacefully

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
April 21st, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Levon Helm, drummer, singer and multi-instrumentalist for The Band has died "peacefully," according to his record label, Vanguard Records. He was 71. "He was surrounded by family, friends and band mates and will be remembered by all he touched as a brilliant musician and a beautiful soul," the record label's statement said.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Hailed as the backbone of The Band by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a statement released on the occasion his death read "As a member of the one of the most influential rock and roll groups, The Band, Levon Helm produced music that was as much timeless as it was timely.

"In the late 1960s and early 1970s when the country was divided, The Band still projected a sense of unity and brought generations of fans together from all over the world," the statement read.

As a singer, Helm could be mournful and sad as in "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" and the half-chanted chorus of "King Harvest (Has Surely Come)."

Helm could also be playful, as he was in "Ophelia" and "The Weight," where in the latter he lunges into the "Take a load off, Annie."

Helm had been suffering from throat cancer for several years, but the condition had not robbed him of his spirit - or his drive to keep on singing.

Helm regularly hosted the Midnight Ramble, weekly concerts at his home in Woodstock, New York. The Ramble attracted sell-out crowds and all-star support from the likes of Emmylou Harris, Kris Kristofferson and Steely Dan's Donald Fagen.

Helm is best known for providing the vocals to such rock 'n' roll standards as "The Weight" and "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down." The Arkansas-born, Southern-mythologizing Helm was the one most qualified to sing them. "I aimed it right at him, I wrote it for him, he gets to say it all," Robertson told Rolling Stone in 1969.

Levon Helm was born Mark Lavon Helm in Elaine, Arkansas, on May 26, 1940, the son of a cotton farmer. He found inspiration in "the old traveling medicine tent shows" that would make the rounds in the South.

Helm's The Band remains hugely influential, but touring and internal dissension took their toll. In 1976, the group decided to bow out with an all-star concert, "The Last Waltz," filmed by Martin Scorsese and considered one of the great music concert documentaries.

Plain-speaking and devoid of pretension, Helm enjoyed nothing more than playing music for a few friends. In 2008, Helm received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award with The Band. He wasn't present to receive it, holding his Midnight Ramble at his Woodstock home instead.

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