Levon Helm, a founding member of the groundbreaking rock and roll group The Band, died Thursday at age 71 after a long battle with throat cancer. Their farewell concert in was immortalized in Martin Scorsese's seminal documentary The Last Waltz. Here, five of Helm's finest performances remembered:. Yet it was Helm's "raw power" that shined the most. He "wears the pain and suffering of ordinary people" who lived in the South during the Civil War; you can see it "from the song's beginning until the final strike of his drum. On percussion, he had "the kind of flesh-and-blood timekeeping" that will likely never be matched. And listening to his lyrics felt like driving "down a dirt road, deep into the woods of American history. It was "one of the most remarkable second acts in rock history.
Ophelia — on which he almost single-handedly constructs a Dixieland-jazz wall of sound — is perhaps the greater testament to his musicality and versatility, but personal preference means Chest Fever sneaks on to this list ahead of it. Each member had a primary instrument but would chop and change as the music required; songwriting duties were mostly shared between Robertson and nominal lead vocalist Richard Manuel, but there was no de facto leader; they were adaptive, instinctual, egalitarian; a band — the band — rather than a vehicle for individual talent. I tried to follow that, to go with it and find it musically. We both felt very good about this song. All five members of the Band had cut their teeth as working musicians in the s, when the concept of success was very different to what it would be a decade later when they finally achieved it for themselves. By , the shy, sweet-natured Richard Manuel had started down the self-destructive path that would ultimately consume him.
Born on May 26, , Levon Helm will be remembered as a country proselytizer, an inventive interpreter, a uniquely emotive drummer — and always, always one of a kind. He appeared as part of a chorus that often performed as if they were brothers. Selecting any individual triumph from their discography eventually became something of a treasure hunt.
Helm was known for his deeply soulful, country -accented voice, multi-instrumental ability, and creative drumming style, highlighted on many of The Band's recordings, such as " The Weight ", " Up on Cripple Creek ", and " The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down ". In , Helm was diagnosed with throat cancer, which caused him to lose his singing voice. After treatment, his cancer eventually went into remission, and he gradually regained the use of his voice. They encouraged their children to play and sing at a young age. Helm began playing the guitar at the age of eight and also played drums.