The Band star Levon Helm has lost his battle with throat cancer.
The much-loved rocker died on Thursday (19Apr12) in New York, aged 71.
Helm's longtime guitarist pal Larry Campbell announced the sad news in a statement to RollingStone.com, which reads: "He passed away peacefully at 1:30 this afternoon surrounded by his friends and bandmates.
"All his friends were there, and it seemed like Levon was waiting for them. Ten minutes after they left we sat there and he just faded away. He did it with dignity. It was even two days ago they thought it would happen within hours, but he held on. It seems like he was Levon up to the end, doing it the way he wanted to do it. He loved us, we loved him."
The multi-Grammy Award winner was born on 26 May, 1940, in Arkansas, and knew from the age of six he was destined to become a rock star after seeing Bill Monroe & his Blue Grass Boys live. By the time he was eight he could play guitar and he quickly progressed to the drums.
Helm began playing in clubs at the age of 17 with his first proper band The Hawks, who became Bob Dylan's backing group for a short time. The Hawks eventually became The Band and they would go on to be known as one of the most influential rock bands of all time. The group split in 1976.
While he was primarily known as The Band's drummer, Helm also played the guitar and mandolin and sang on some of the group's biggest tracks, including The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down and The Weight.
He would rejoin The Band with original members Garth Hudson, Rick Danko and Richard Manuel in the 1990s.
Helm was first diagnosed with throat cancer over a decade ago and was rendered speechless for a period, but he returned to music as a member of the Midnight Rambles.
He also recorded several Grammy-winning solo albums and appeared in a number of films - Helm was the narrator in The Right Stuff and he played the father of country legend Loretta Lynn in the biopic Coal Miner's Daughter.
News of the seriousness of his latest health crisis spread last month (Mar12), when Helm was forced to cancel a series of concert appearances. Estranged bandmate Robbie Robertson then offered his prayers to the drummer during a speech at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Saturday (14Apr12).
Robertson put aside a 35-year feud with Helm on Sunday (15Apr12) and visited his old The Band bandmate in hospital.
The rocker's wife Sandy and daughter Amy posted a message on his website on Tuesday (17Apr12) asking fans to send "prayers and love" to the stricken rocker as he battled through the final stages of the disease.
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