Levon Helm, the legendary drummer for The Band, died today. He was 71.
“Levon Helm passed peacefully this afternoon,” his rep confirmed.
“He was surrounded by family, friends and fellow band members and will be remembered by all he touched as a brilliant musician and a beautiful soul.”
Earlier this week, Levon’s wife Sandy and their daughter announced on his official website that he was “in the final stages of his battle with cancer.”
The Arkansas-born Helm played in a rockabilly band in the late 1950s before moving up to Canada and joining guitarist Robbie Robertson and three other musicians to form what would become Bob Dylan’s back-up band in the mid-1960s.
Later called simply The Band, the group featured Helm’s drums and vocals on songs like “The Weight,” “Up on Cripple Creek” and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.”
Their final concert, filmed by Martin Scorsese, was The Last Waltz in 1976.
In their message to his fans, Levon Helm’s wife and daughter said:
“Thank you fans and music lovers who have made his life 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.”