Levon Helm in 'final stages' of cancer battle (with slideshow)
WOODSTOCK, N.Y. — Musician Levon Helm, a Woodstock resident and former member of The Band, is in the final stages of his battle with cancer, according to a statement posted Tuesday on his website.
Helm, 71, was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1998, and the illness reduced his voice to a raspy whisper, but he continued to record albums and perform his Saturday night “Ramble” concerts at his home. In recent weeks, however, several scheduled Helm shows, in Woodstock and elsewhere, were canceled.
“Levon is in the final stages of his battle with cancer. Please send your prayers and love to him as he makes his way through this part of his journey,” reads a statement at www.levonhelm.com that’s attributed to his wife, Sandy, and his daughter, Amy.
Helm — a drummer, singer, four-time Grammy Award winner and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee — was a member of The Band with Rick Danko, Robbie Robertson, Garth Hudson and Richard Manuel. They started as a backing band for Bob Dylan — at one time living and recording in a West Saugerties house known as “Big Pink” — before striking out and their own and becoming known for such songs as “Up on Cripple Creek,” “The Weight” and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.”
Manuel died in 1986. Danko died in 1999.
The Band was perhaps best known for its 1978 concert film and album, “The Last Waltz.”
Related: Social media reaction to Levon Helm news
New Paltz resident Butch Dener, The Band’s longtime manager, said he did not want to talk about Helm’s condition.
“I love him too much to comment,” Dener said by phone Tuesday evening. Continued...
Barbara O’Brien, Helm’s current manager, could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
News of Helm’s condition on his Facebook page generated more than 4,200 comments in three hours Tuesday afternoon and evening.
Helm recently recorded an an Ulster County tourism commercial, for which county Tourism Director Rick Remsnyder remains grateful.
“I’m saddened to hear of his deteriorating health because he’s such a tremendous ambassador for Ulster County,” Remsnyder said on Tuesday.
“I grew up a fan of The Band and never, in my wildest dreams, did I ever think we’d be able to work with one of the great legends of music,” Remsnyder added. “He loves Ulster County, and I just get goosebumps every time I play that video. I can’t thank him and his extended family enough for all their help in doing that.”
The tourism video debuted about two months ago, and Remsnyder said he’s been getting calls from tourism executives all over the country, wanting to know how Ulster County got Helm.
“I just asked, and without hesitation, he said he’d do it,” Remsnyder said. “And the reason why is that this was his home. It was a great place for him to create his music.”
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