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Musician and singer Levon Helm was a member of the influential rock group, The Band, and a Grammy Award-winning solo artist.
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The Band had one final hurrah, a concert known as The Last Waltz in 1976. The show was all-star affair with appearances by Dylan, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and others. Filmed by Martin Scorsese, a film of the concert debuted two years later. Helm reportedly felt that the movie focused more on Robertson,
and it proved to be the final straw for Helm and Robertson. Helm didn't speak to Robertson for years after the concert film's release.
In the early 1980s, Helm reformed The Band without Robertson. They toured and recorded together, but they failed to recapture their early musical magic. The original members were all inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994, but Helm refused to attend the ceremony.
Outside of The Band, Helm had some success as an actor. He appeared in the 1980 Loretta Lynn biopic Coal Miner's Daughter playing the singer's father. In 1983, Helm had a role in the space drama The Right Stuff (1983).
In 1998, Helm was diagnosed with throat cancer. He was unable to talk above a whisper for some time, but he eventually regained some of his voice. Over the next few years, Helm soon found himself in financial hot water. In 2004, Helm launched a series of concerts called Midnight Rambles as a personal fundraising effort. These events, which featured such guests as Emmylou Harris and Kris Kristofferson, were held at his barn-studio on his property in Woodstock, New York.
With a raspier edge to his voice, Helm returned to making albums. He enjoyed critical acclaim with 2007's Dirt Farmer and 2009's Electric Dirt, both of which won Grammy Awards. In February 2012, Helm took home his final Grammy Award for Best Americana Album for Ramble at the Ryman. This live recording captured one of Helm's famous Ramble shows performed at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium.
That April, Helm's family announced that the legendary performer was losing his battle with cancer. His wife Sandy and daughter Amy wrote a thank you to his fans who made "his life so filled with joy and celebration." They said that Helm "loved nothing more than to play, to fill the room up with music, lay down the back beat and make the people dance!"
Levon Helm died on April 19, 2012, at a New York City hospital. He was 71. With his passing, the music world lost one of its most distinctive performers. As one critic wrote, "Helm had a voice like no other in rock music: definitively Southern, soulful and gritty, an oak-barreled whiskey that sometimes went down with a fiery kick."
Before his death, Helm had reconciled with former band mate Robbie Robertson. Robertson had visited with Helm in the hospital. After Helm's death, Robertson released a statement, saying "Levon is one of the most extraordinary, talented people I've ever known and very much like an older brother to me. I am so grateful I got to see him one last time."
Since Helm's death, other musicians have sought to continue his musical legacy through an effort called "Keep It Goin.'" Roger Waters, Gregg Allman, John Prine and many others staged a special concert called "Love for Levon" in October 2012. It was a fund-raising event to save Helm's beloved barn.
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