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Levon Helm Loses Battle with Cancer at 71 [VIDEO]

Levon Helm, former drummer for the Band, has lost his battle with throat cancer. The legendary musician, whose  soulfully southern voice gave life to classic songs such as ‘The Weight,’ ‘Up on Cripple Creek’ and ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,’ was 71 years old.

Drummer and singer Levon Helm
Rob Loud/Getty Images

Longtime guitarist for Helm, Larry Cambell, told Rolling Stone,

He passed away peacefully at 1:30 this afternoon surrounded by his friends and bandmates, All his friends were there, and it seemed like Levon was waiting for them. Ten minutes after they left we sat there and he just faded away. He did it with dignity.”

The group consisted of Robbie Robertson on guitar, Rick Danko on Bass, Garth Hudson on Keyboards, and Helm on drums and vocals.  They had been playing bars for years under the name “Levon and the Hawks”, when they were hired to play back-up for Bob Dylan.  With Dylan’s guidance they changed the name of the group to “The Band” in 1968 and put out their first album “Music From Big Pink”  Their sound was influential to many artists at the time, including Elton John, whose song “Levon” was named after Helm.

The Band broke up in 1976 and their farewell performance at San Fracisco’s Winterland was documented in the Martin Scorsese film “The Last Waltz”.

Watch The Band perform “The Weight” from the movie…

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