Update: Levon Helm "passed away peacefully at 1:30 this afternoon [April 19] surrounded by his friends and bandmates," according to Rolling Stone.
* * *
The long and incredible lifelong musical journey of Levon Helm is almost at an end.
In a statement on his official site, Helm’s wife Sandy and daughter Amy announced that the 71-year-old musician was in the final stages of cancer.
"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,” the family wrote.
Helm, best known as the drummer and frequent lead vocalist for the group The Band, has had an impressive career both musically and as an actor. He appeared in 11 Hollywood films playing characters alongside heavyweights like Sissy Spacek and Tommy Lee Jones, and he also garnered two Grammy awards in 2008 and 2010 for his albums "Dirt Farmer" and the followup album, "Electric Dirt."
His impact on the music industry been so great that Elton John used him as the hero of his song "Levon," as well as naming his son Zachary Jackson Levon Furnish-John.
In 1998, Helm, who at one time in his life reportedly smoked up to three packs a day, was diagnosed with throat cancer. The subsequent surgery on his vocal chords permanently impacted his voice, leaving him able to speak just above a whisper.
In a posting on Facebook, Helm's manager Rory O'Brien gave fans an update, saying she was reading all of their wonderful dedications to him.
"Thank you, all, for the outpouring of kindness and love," she writes. "I know Levon is feeling it and that love will help guide him through this final journey ... 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."
Helm, who has owned a farm in Woodstock, N.Y., since the '60s, recently filmed a tourism promotion for Ulster County, where Woodstock is located.
"There's something about Woodstock and about the Catskill Mountains right here. It's just — it's such a good place for music to happen," he added.
You can check out that video below. Our best to Helm and his family.