Last week, Levon Helm, the legendary drummer and singer for the Band, died of cancer. Helm’s public memorial will be held today (April 26) in New York’s Hudson Valley, where he once held Saturday night ‘Midnight Ramble’ barn concerts. Fans are flocking to Helm’s Woodstock home from all over to pay their final respects to this legendary musician.
Helm, along with his fellow the Band members (including Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel, and Robbie Robertson), were responsible for such country rock hits as ‘The Weight’ and ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.’
In the 2000s, Helm began his ‘Midnight Ramble’ concerts at his studio in the barn at his home in Woodstock. After a tough bout with throat cancer, Helm couldn’t tour as he did early in his career, and the rambles were an effort to raise money for his medical bills. Respected musicians, including Gillian Welch, Justin Townes Earle, Elvis Costello, EmmyLou Harris and dozens more joined in the late-night jam sessions.
By 2007, Helm’s voice had recovered from cancer treatments, and he released ‘Dirt Farmer,’ his first solo studio album since 1982. Unfortunately, by the beginning of this year, Helm’s health started to slip again. He had reportedly canceled several live performances, citing a slipped disk in his back as the issue.
On April 17, 2012, his family released a letter to Helm’s fans, via his Facebook page:
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. 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… We appreciate all the love and support and concern. From his daughter Amy, and wife Sandy
Two days later, on April 20, Helm crossed the great divide, surrounded by friends. After a private funeral tomorrow (April 27), the icon will be buried next to the Band member Rick Danko in the Woodstock Cemetery.