The Band's Levon Helm Dies Of Cancer At 71

Drummer and singer Levon Helm was a founding member of The Band. Helm and his group played as a backup band for Bob Dylan in the 1960s. Later the band became famous enough to simply be called The Band.

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LYNN NEARY, HOST:

Now we remember another great musician. Singer and drummer Levon Helm died yesterday of cancer. He was seventy-one.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Helm and his group played as a backup band for Bob Dylan in the 1960s.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LIKE A ROLLING STONE")

BOB DYLAN: (Singing) Like a rolling stone.

INSKEEP: And the group became famous enough that after awhile, they didn't even need Dylan. They became simply The Band. And with Helm on lead vocals, they produced some of the most memorable songs of the era.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "UP ON CRIPPLE CREEK")

THE BAND: (Singing) Up on Cripple Creek, she sends me. If I spring a leak, she mends me. I don't have to speak, as she defends me. A drunkard's dream if I ever did see one.

NEARY: Helm grew up playing blues and folk songs with his family in Turkey Scratch, Arkansas. Those songs would have a profound influence on him throughout his long career.

INSKEEP: That career continued until the 1990s, when it was interrupted. He lost his voice from cancer of the vocal chords. It took him years to learn to talk and laugh again, as he told NPR in 2006.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LEVON HELM: Once I got some of my laughter back, I started getting so I could sing harmony parts with my daughter.

INSKEEP: And a few years before his death, Levon Helm sang with his daughter, Amy, on a tune called "The Blind Child" on the Grammy-award winning album, "Dirt Farmer."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE BLIND CHILD")

LEVON AND AMY HELM: (Singing) They chair whereby beside I knelt to say my evening prayer. Oh, father, do not bid me come. I could not meet her there. With his head fell back and his eyes were closed...

NEARY: This is NPR News.

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