Levon Helm died yesterday in New York City of throat cancer. He was 71. Levon was a tremendous talent and an outstanding drummer. Few people understand the engine that drives any sort of live performance music is the rhythm — and in modern music, that means a live drummer. Without a proper human metronome keeping the entire band on track and in sync, the entire song falls apart. If you have a terrible drummer, the job of keeping the energy of the music moving forward falls to the bass player. If both drummer and bass player are inept, you do not have a band. Levon Helm was, The Band:
Helm, the drummer and singer who brought an urgent beat and a genuine Arkansas twang to some of The Band’s best-known songs and helped turn a bunch of musicians known mostly as Bob Dylan’s backup group into one of rock’s most legendary acts, has died. He was 71.
Helm, who was found to have throat cancer in 1998, died Thursday afternoon of complications from cancer at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, said Lucy Sabini of Vanguard Records. On Tuesday, a message on his website said he was in the final stages of cancer.