Helm in 'final stages' of cancer battle

April 17, 2012 at 9:29 PM
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WOODSTOCK, N.Y., April 17 (UPI) -- Levon Helm's family said on his Web site Tuesday the Arkansas-born rock musician and actor is in the final stages of his battle with cancer.

Helm, 71, is known as a drummer and singer with The Band -- which recorded the hits "The Weight," "Up on Cripple Creek," "Ophelia" and "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down." The Band was perhaps best known for its 1978 concert film and album "The Last Waltz."

He also acted in the movies "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada," "Shooter," "Smooth Talk," "The Right Stuff," "The Dollmaker," "Feeling Minnesota," "End of the Line," "In the Electric Mist," "Fire Down Below," "Staying Together" and "Coal Miner's Daughter."

"Please send your prayers and love to him as he makes his way through this part of his journey," said the message from his daughter Amy and wife Sandy. "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... We appreciate all the love and support and concern."

His Facebook page received more than 5,400 comments Tuesday evening.

Helm was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1998 and underwent radiation treatments. The treatments damaged his vocal cords, reducing his deeply soulful country-accented voice to a quiet rasp.

He continued recording albums and performing Saturday night Midnight Ramble concerts at his home and studio, known as the Barn, in Woodstock, N.Y.

In recent weeks, several scheduled Helm shows, in Woodstock and elsewhere, were canceled, the Daily Freeman of Kingston, N.Y., reported.

Helm, born in Marvell, Ark., performed with Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel and Robbie Robertson in The Band.

He had a solo career after The Band broke up in 1976, reunited with a new version of The Band in 1983 and toured with British musician Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band in 1989.

His 2007 comeback album "Dirt Farmer" earned a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Album.

Rolling Stone magazine ranked him No. 91 in a list of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time in November of that year.

Helm's 2009 "Electric Dirt" album won the first Grammy Award for Best Americana Album in 2010.

The hero of Elton John's 1971 song "Levon" was named after Helm. John also named his son, born Dec. 25, 2010, Zachary Jackson Levon Furnish-John.

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