The Washington Post

Levon Helm dies at age 71

Update: Levon Helm died Thursday.

Original post: April 17: 5:20 p.m.

Levon Helm, the legendary 71-year-old drummer-singer of The Band, is in “the final stages of his battle with cancer,” according to a note posted on his Web site by his wife and daughter.

View Photo Gallery: Levon Helm, legendary 71-year-old drummer-singer of The Band.

“Please send your prayers and love to him as he makes his way though this part of his journey,” the note reads.

Helm was diagnosed with throat cancer more than a decade ago, but made a recovery and returned to the stage. Even though the illness took a toll on his singing voice, he continued to tour for years. Dave McKenna reviewed a lively Helm performance at Wolf Trap two summers ago.

His voice isn’t what it used to be, but Helm’s still himself on the drums

July 23, 2010

By Dave McKenna

For better or worse, the Band made ensemble playing trendy in rock-and-roll. For the crowd that came out to Wolf Trap to see Levon Helm on Wednesday, “for worse” had a slight edge.

Helm is now 70, and most of those were rock-and-roll years. The lifestyle and various physical ailments, including a bad case of throat cancer that was diagnosed and beaten down over a decade ago, have done a number on Helm. He looked his age and then some when he slowly walked to the stage. But when he sat down on his drummer's throne, the Arkansan and only non-Canadian in the Band exuded the energy of a much younger man. Plainly, Helm was all over the kit. He tapped and banged out every rhythm imaginable, from the up-tempo blues of Sam Cooke's “(Ain’t That) Good News” to the New Orleans funk of Dr. John’s “On a Mardi Gras Day.” From the sound and look of things, Helm could have worked up a speed-metal tempo if the set list required ... Read the full article

Chris Richards has been the Post's pop music critic since 2009. He's recently written about the bliss of summer songs, the woe of festival fatigue and a guide on how to KonMari your record collection.


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