Levon Helm Of The Band Dies At 71, With songs like “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” ”The Weight” and “Up on Cripple Creek,” The Band fused rock, blues, folk and gospel to create a sound that seemed as authentically American as a Mathew Brady photograph or a Mark Twain short story.
In truth, the group had only one American – Levon Helm.
Helm, the drummer and singer who brought an urgent beat and a genuine Arkansas twang to some of The Band’s best-known songs and helped turn a bunch of musicians known mostly as Bob Dylan’s backup group into one of rock’s most legendary acts, has died. He was 71.
Helm, who was found to have throat cancer in 1998, died Thursday afternoon of complications from cancer at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, said Lucy Sabini of Vanguard Records. On Tuesday, a message on his website said he was in the final stages of cancer.
Helm and his bandmates – Canadians Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, Robbie Robertson and Richard Manuel – were musical virtuosos who returned to the roots of American music in the late 1960s as other rockers veered into psychedelia, heavy metal and jams. The group’s 1968 debut, “Music From the Big Pink,” and its follow-up, “The Band,” remain landmark albums of the era, and songs such as “The Weight,” ”Dixie Down” and “Cripple Creek” have become rock standards.
Early on, The Band backed Dylan on his sensational and controversial electric tours of 1965-66 and collaborated with him on the legendary “Basement Tapes,” which produced “I Shall Be Released,” ”Tears of Rage” and many other favorites.
“I am terribly sad. Thank you for 50 years of friendship and music,” Hudson posted on his website Thursday evening. “No more sorrows, no more troubles, no more pain. He went peacefully to that beautiful marvelous wonderful place. … Levon, I’m proud of you.”
The son of an Arkansas cotton farmer, Helm was just out of high school when he joined rocker Ronnie Hawkins for a tour of Canada in 1957 as the drummer for the Hawks. That band eventually recruited a group of Canadian musicians who, along with Helm, spent grueling years touring rough bars in Canada and the South.
They would split from Hawkins, hook up with Dylan and eventually call themselves The Band – because, as they explained many times, that’s what everyone called them anyway. (AP)
Levon Helm The Band, Levon Helm died Thursday at the age of 71, and a piece of the rich roots music now called Americana should be buried with him.
Helm, who was best known as the drummer for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame group The Band, had been suffering from a recurrence of the cancer that cost him his singing voice a decade earlier.
Larry Campbell, music director for the Levon Helm Band, said he died peacefully at Memorial Sloan-Kettering, “surrounded by friends and bandmates and family.”
Helm won three solo Grammys over a 65-year career in which he blended all the music he heard as a youth in Turkey Scratch, Ark.: country, blues, bluegrass, gospel, R&B, pop and rock ‘n’ roll.
“He was just a great rock ‘n’ roll drummer,” said his long-time friend and admirer, radio host Don Imus. “He was also a genuinely sweet person – a true angel. There was no one like him.”
Helm and The Band played for 600,000 fans at the 1973 Watkins Glen music festival, but his focus the last decade was the intimate weekly jam sessions he called Midnight Rambles at his studio/ barn in Woodstock, N.Y.
Artists like Emmylou Harris and Elvis Costello often dropped in for the sessions, which were open to the public. Helm said he modeled them after late-night performances by the traveling medicine shows he knew as a child.
He continued the Rambles until several weeks ago, when he fell ill. His Band partner Robbie Robertson, from whom he had been estranged for years, sent “love and prayers” to Helm last Saturday night at the 2012 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction.
Robertson also made a personal visit to Helm’s bedside over the weekend and called Helm “one of the most extraordinarily talented people I’ve ever known.”
Helm decided he wanted to be a musician at the age of 6, he said, when he heard bluegrass icon Bill Monroe.
Ryan Gosling Death Hoax, Hey girl, you can stop sobbing uncontrollably, because Ryan Gosling is alive and well. As if The Notebook isn’t enough of a tear-jerker already, on Tuesday the disreputable Global Associated News reported that the Canadian heartthrob fell 50 feet to his death while filming a movie in the Kitzbühel Alps.
Gosling is just the latest victim of the Internet’s most boring trend: The celebrity death hoax. It seems we’re now hearing about celebrities’ unexpected and totally bogus deaths at a rate of about two per week, and in the past few months death rumors have circulated about Justin Bieber, Bon Jovi, Snooki, Usher, Chris Brown, Reba McEntire, Patrick Dempsey, Paul McCartney, Ja Rule, and even Boo, the “world’s cutest dog.”
As fans of April Fool’s Day pranks and every online meme from LOLCats to Rickrolling, we find this prank totally puzzling. The reports themselves are never amusing. It’s not like we’re told that Bieber was trampled by a pack of lovesick fans, or that Snooki OD’ed on a chemical in self-tanner. All the hoaxes prove is that information spreads fast on Facebook and Twitter, which we already knew, and the prank is over as soon as a celebrity says, “Hey, I’m not dead.”
Robin Gibb Death, Singer Robin Gibb, suffering from cancer and pneumonia, is in a coma fighting for his life in a London hospital, his Web site announced.
He is near death, ABC News reported, although a message on his Web site is positive.
“We are all hoping and praying that he will pull through,” his Web site said.
Gibb, 62, who said in February he was making a recovery from cancer, was later readmitted to the hospital for intestinal surgery.
Gibbs’ wife, children and his brother Barry have been keeping vigil at his bedside at a hospital in Chelsea west London, the BBC reported Sunday.
Doctors discovered cancer of the colon and liver during bowel surgery 18 months ago, but it was thought his cancer was in remission.
However, a secondary tumor was found, The Daily Telegraph said.
A message on the homepage of his official RobinGibb.com Web site Sunday read: “Because of this situation, Robin’s Web site is temporarily unavailable. Sorry for any inconvenience.” (UPI)
Juan Carlos Elephant Injury, The head of Egypt’s election commission says 10 presidential hopefuls, including the country’s ex-spy chief and key Islamists have been disqualified from running. Farouk Sultan, the head of the Supreme Presidential Election Commission, said Saturday that those excluded include Hosni Mubarak’s former spy chief Omar Suleiman, Muslim Brotherhood chief strategist Khairat el-Shater and hard-line lawyer-turned-preacher Hazem Abu Ismail. He didn’t give a reason.
U.N. sending monitors The U.N. Security Council on Saturday unanimously approved sending up to 30 unarmed monitors to Syria to help maintain what at best can be described as a fragile cease-fire. The vote came as activists reported almost 20 deaths across Syria, including nine in the city of Homs, where videos uploaded to the Internet indicated that government forces had begun shelling once again.
Mayor buried 76 years later A Spanish mayor said her town held a burial ceremony for one of her predecessors and three others after their bodies were found in an unmarked dump dating from the country’s civil war. Pilar Perez, of Torrellas, said the bodies were discovered in October 2010. DNA revealed they were those of former mayor Gregorio Torres and residents Luis Torres, Feliciano Lapuente and Marcelino Navarro, all taken away and shot by forces loyal to Gen. Francisco Franco in 1936.
Michael Sands Death Deli Meat, A famed Hollywood publicist who claimed to be an undercover CIA operative who helped capture terrorists choked to death on a deli meat sample at an upmarket Los Angeles supermarket, according to The Wrap.
Michael Sands, who was also the brains behind Mr Blackwell’s annual Worst Dressed List, was tasting a piece of beef at Gelson’s Deli Counter in Century City when it became lodged in his throat.
The 66-year-old was pronounced dead at the scene for five minutes but was revived and taken to Cedars Sinai hospital where he was placed in an induced coma.
Sands passed away on April 6, almost two weeks after the tragic accident on March 24.
Sands’ son Nick told The Wrap that his father suffered from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease which caused the beef sample to become stuck in his narrow passageways.
The deputy editor of P****oy Magazine, Stephen Randall, who did not know Sands, witnessed the incident and told The Wrap that he saw no signs of life in the man.
Sands, who was a former model and actor, caused a stir when he claimed to be influential in the 2003 capture of Abu Abbas, the infamous terrorist who masterminded the hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship in 1985.