Levon Helm in Final Stages of Cancer Battle

We’ve been and will continue to update this post with reactions from Levon’s friends, family, band mates and fans as well as any news on his condition.

We’re sad to report that the rumors making the rounds lately are true – our hero Levon Helm is in the final stages of his battle with cancer. His family has just released a statement

[Photo by Parker Harrington]

Dear Friends,

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

Levon was one of the first artists we covered on Hidden Track and one of our favorites. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family. Helm was first diagnosed with throat cancer in 1998 and underwent many radiation sessions to beat back the disease. The cancer hindered his singing voice, but Levon fought through it and went on to tour and play many Midnight Rambles at his home studio. The Band drummer was thought to be dealing with a back issue recently, though rumors started to spread last weekend that he was on “his deathbed.”

The Band – I Shall Be Released

The lack of response from Levon’s camp gave us the feeling, along with longtime nemesis Robbie Robertson having a kind word for him at Saturday’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, that today’s announcement was coming.

UPDATE: Barbara O’Brien, Levon’s manager, has shared this note:

Thank you, all, for the outpouring of kindness and love. I know Levon is feeling it and that love will help guide him through this final journey. Thank you for your respect for his, Sandy’s and Amy’s privacy. YOU are truly people with class and Levon would think the world of you. The pain of knowing we’re going to lose him is almost too much for all of us to bear at the moment. But it can’t be about US. This is about honoring this great man’s dignity and privacy. Let’s send him off with love, positive energy, lots of light and words of support and comfort. Keep sending the great posts. I’m going to read them all to him. Thank you so, so much!

Also, Robbie Robertson has weighed in on his Facebook page

Last week I was shocked and so saddened to hear that my old band mate, Levon, was in the final stages of his battle with cancer. It hit me really hard because I thought he had beaten throat cancer and had no idea that he was this ill. I spoke with his family and made arrangements to go and see him.

On Sunday I went to New York and visited him in the hospital. I sat with Levon for a good while, and thought of the incredible and beautiful times we had together. It was heartwarming to be greeted by his lovely daughter Amy, whom I have known since she was born. Amy’s mother, Libby Titus, and her husband, Donald Fagen, were so kind to help walk me through this terrible time of sadness. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife Sandy.

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 and will miss him and love him forever.

-Robbie Robertson

As has The Band’s Garth Hudson

I am too sad for words right now. Please continue praying for Levon and family.

Reactions have come in from around the musical world…


[Note: We’ll update this post with more reactions as they come in.]


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16 thoughts on “Levon Helm in Final Stages of Cancer Battle

  1. robey Reply

    happy trails levon!

  2. Jeffrey Greenblatt Reply

    Such sad news. Very thankfully I got to see him perform a handful of time over the last few years, including a fantastic Halloween evening Ramble that was a very special night.

  3. PG Reply

    Sad, sad news. I was so looking forward to seeing him with Mavis at Jazzfest. Glad I caught him a few times in recent years, for sure. A treasure.

  4. Kris King Reply

    Peaceful journey Levon, you have many friends waiting for you on the other side. No more suffering for a life well-lived, a life that will be remembered long after you are gone. You are blessed with a new adventure of love, light and peace.

  5. PattiP Reply

    Levon, you’ve brought me so much joy in this life. I don’t even know how many times I’ve seen you perform, first at Monticello Raceway upstate New York about (OMG!) 40 years ago! Love you!

  6. Scott Bernstein Reply

    I’ll never forget stumbling upon an episode of Letterman in ’94 where Levon sang Atlantic City along with The Band (3.0). His voice put me under his spell and I was so entranced. Went out and bought Jericho the next day and The Last Waltz from there. Not your typical progression of becoming a Band fan, but it worked for me.

    What was your first exposure to Levon?

  7. Tommy Maher Reply

    Dont know of a more True musician. Also one of the rare ones that cared about his fans. He lived it right to the very end. Last time I saw him was at the 40th reunion in Bethel. He has so much more class then most of these so called stars that couldnt care less about the people who made them rich and famous. You will be in the front row in heaven. God Bless You, and Thanks so very much…

  8. Ken Boutwell Reply

    Just signed on to check my e-mail and saw this from my 23 yr.old son and I’m devastated. Been listening to Levon and the Band for about the last 45 years. His voice was THE BAND ! God’s Speed to you Brother, God Bless you and Thank You for so Many years of not only GREAT MUSIC, BUT ALSO GREAT MEMORIES. We’ll see you on the other side LEVON>

  9. Teresa Williams Reply

    Levon, the music you made, both with the band and on your own, has meant so much to me over the past 37 years since I was first turned onto the Band by my oldest sister, Leslie. Thank you so much for the joy you have brought into my life. This transition will undoubtedly be at least as interesting as your life span here on planet earth!

  10. Dave Meaden Reply

    Although I was too young to actually have seen you and the band play live, I still get to enjoy the music you and your band created. Your drumming is, and always will be amazing. You were a great inspiration for many. You will be very much missed by myself, and all your fans. You and your music will live on in our hearts. Farewell Levon.

  11. Mike Volpe Reply

    The mark of a great artist are the chills they can elicit. Mr. Helm had a knack for that and should know that the goosebumps will keep coming from listening to him generation after generation.

  12. Augustus Westus Reply

    What a huge bummer. Levon’s presence was pervasive at the Furthur show last night. After Midnight opener – very appropriate. But what a story and what a man. Hugely influencial, great human – and talk about a rally at the end (Dirt Farmer>Electric Dirt>Ryman)??!!! My first Band encounter was also strange: early MTV (circa 82, 83) played a Latz Waltz clip of Dixie quite often in their content-challanged days. This clip, and this dude singing and playing drums, was as real and honest as a blue-sky morning. He will be greatly missed. I truly hope that Larry Campbell carries on the Ramble tradition. Possibly Levon’s greatest accomplishment…

  13. KevinInAlbany Reply

    Where to start? This is terribly upsetting news, Levon’s and the Band’s music were/are a huge part of my life. Listening to his singing on tunes like “The Rumor” practically brings me to tears, and I suspect that when I listen to it next the tears will surely come. I saw the Band (sans Robbie) 5 times in the mid-late 80′s and saw Levon’s band 5-6 times in the 2000′s, most recently with my wife at the Ramble December 3. the picture at the top of this post says it all for me- he was always smiling, always just LOVING playing. Even if he couldn’t sing, he could bang the shit out of his drums. He could swing with the best of them and I feel very fortunate to have seen him so many times. Class. Fucking. Act. He will be sorely missed, but his presence in the American rock songbook is more than secure.

  14. Augustus Westus Reply

    The Band 3.0 verison of Atlantic City is one of the Top 5 Springsteen covers ever. I remember listening to Idiot’s Delight one Sunday a few weeks before it was released back in like 94 and it was so good that Vin Scelsa spoke at the end of the track, and then played it AGAIN because it was so good. And Growing Trade on Electric Dirt (written by Larry and Levon) is a fucking CLASSIC. That tune does not get enough recognition. If you want to listen to a Levon song in the next few days do yourself a favor and throw on Growing Trade. Amazing.

  15. Rick Beausoleil Reply

    My support and Love goes out to You”Levon” and Your dear family. You have been a mainstay inspiration to me for years now . I wish You and Your Family Peace and Love and Life EVERLASTING on Your Journey Home. May we all Play and Sing Together in Heaven’s Great BAND.
    Bless Bless GOD’s Peace Beyond Understanding To You and Yours . Rick B.

  16. Brian Reply

    Bon Iver played a rocking version of The Band’s “Ophelia” tonight in SF for Levon…

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