Band drummer Levon Helm (71) dies

Fri, Apr 20, 2012, 01:00

American music has lost one of its last true veterans after Levon Helm, drummer and vocalist with The Band, died at the age of 71.

The three-time Grammy Award winner had been fighting throat cancer since 1998.

"Levon Helm passed peacefully this afternoon," Helm's manager, Barbara O'Brien, said in a statement yesterday. "He was surrounded by family, friends and band mates and will be remembered by all he touched as a brilliant musician and a beautiful soul.

Helm was a musicians’ musician, a drummer who would lay out a groove with punch, control and refinement.

Then there was his voice, one of the most distinctive in music. To hear him play and sing was to hear generations of American music, across all styles and genres, from folk mountain tunes to the dark swamp rock of the Mississippi, distilled and refined through a lifetime of playing with the best musicians of his generation.

Together with bass player Rick Danko he formed one of the finest rhythm sections ever to put a groove to a beat, and a partnership that formed the backbone of The Band.

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