Legendary drummer Levon Helm, who was a key figure in American music for decades, has died, The New York Times reports.
Helm’s death was expected, after family members posted a notice earlier this week on his website saying he was in the “final stages of his battle with cancer,” as reported earlier. A spokesperson for Vanguard Records, for whom Helm recorded a number of albums, made the announcement.
Helm died today in Manhattan at 71, the story reports.
The report adds: “In Mr. Helm’s drumming, muscle, swing, economy and finesse were inseparably merged. His voice held the bluesy, weathered and resilient essence of his Arkansas upbringing in the Mississippi Delta.
“Mr. Helm was the American linchpin of the otherwise Canadian group that became Bob Dylan’s backup band and then the Band. Its own songs — largely written by the Band’s guitarist, Jaime Robbie Robertson, and pianist, Richard Manuel — spring from roadhouse, church, backwoods, river and farm; they are rock-ribbed with history and tradition yet hauntingly surreal.”
Click here to see a video of the Band’s performance of Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” with an all-star lineup, from the Martin Scorsese concert film “The Last Waltz.”