R.I.P. Levon Helm (1940-2012)

passed peacefully this afternoon. 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. – Message from LevonHelm.com

The Times Herald Record (via Spinner) reports that Levon Helm, Arkansas farmer, father and most well-known as the the drummer/vocalist for , has died after a long battle with throat cancer. He was 71. At the beginning of the week, Levon’s camp formally announced on Monday that Helm was going to be too sick to perform at and rumors about his poor health were affirmed on the drummer’s web site the following day when his family announced that his final days were drawing near. An outpouring of global support from artists, friends, a U.S. President (fellow Arkansan Bill Clinton) and his legions of fans wrote messages of remembrance to celebrate the drummer’s music and eternal legacy. Helm is remembered by many as representing the heart and soul of The Band.

The iconic pillar of American roots music’s gritty, organic voice couldn’t be silenced even after his first bout with throat cancer at the beginning of the decade. Helm recovered brilliantly, regained his vocal strength, and, with a slightly more gravelly tone, was able to make a big return to record and release of his stellar GRAMMY-winning 2007 album Dirt Farmer, which received honors for “Best Traditional Folk Album” and spawned a follow-up Electric Dirt (which also received a GRAMMY for Best Americana Album). Levon’s life ends on a high note, having inspired the next generation of artists like Mumford & Sons, My Morning Jacket and The Felice Brothers to carry on his legacy for years to come.

Helm was scheduled to perform a headlining set in the Blues Tent on Saturday, May 5th at this year’s New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival alongside the legendary Mavis Staples, with whom he famously sang “The Weight” in the Martin Scorcese’s epochal concert film The Last Waltz. With Warren Haynes Band filling the vacant slot and Staples still slated to make an appearance in the Gospel Tent, there is no question that Helm’s presence will be strongly felt at this year’s event and one can probably bet that “The Weight” and “I Shall Be Released” will ring out across the Fairgrounds at some point over the two weekends and when it does, it will be a moment you’ll never forget. Helm’s final appearance in New Orleans was at Jazz Fest in 2010 (see below).

Long Live Levon!

April 19, 2012 |  by  |  News, Videos
About the author

Wesley grew up in coastal Georgia and is a former resident of The Music City and The Big Easy where he helped get LMB NOLA off-the-ground after launching in January 2011. Over the past few years, he has also contributed steadily to JamBase and Relix Magazine. Recently, Hodges moved on to L.A. where Abita Beer is hard to find, costs about $6 if located and impromptu parading in the streets will most likely get you arrested on the spot.

 
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