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Levon Helm of The Band Dead at 71

Rick Diamond, Getty Images

The gravely-throated singer with The Band, one of the most celebrated and influential groups of the 1960s and ‘70s, died from cancer.

In a statement released Tuesday, his wife and daughter said, “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.”

The Band broke up in 1976. The Band included Helm and four Canadians: guitarist Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko on bass, pianist and vocalist Richard Manuel and organist Garth Hudson. Helm and Robertson were the primary singers and songwriters for the group and Helm and Robertson had a famous falling out, mostly because of songwriting credits and financial issues within the group.

Martin Scorsese filmed The Band’s all-star farewell concert in ‘The Last Waltz’. The film and soundtrack included Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Neil Diamond, Eric Clapton and others participating.

At Saturday’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Cleveland, Robertson told the audience, “We all need to send out love and prayers to my Band mate Levon Helm.”

Elton John’s hit ‘Levon’ with lyrics written by Bernie Taupin is inspired by Helm. It is from John’s fourth album Madman Across the Water and was recorded in 1971.

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