Levon Helm: Life and Music After The Band

Levon Helm, former drummer and vocalist for the '60s and '70s rock group, The Band, recounts his early fame, his battle against throat cancer and his continuing solo career.

When The Band joined Bob Dylan as backup in 1965, Time magazine described the combination as "in some ways, the most decisive moment in rock history." The Band went on to record their own highly influential albums, Music From Big Pink in 1968 and The Band in 1969. They split up 30 years ago.

In 1996, Helm was diagnosed with throat cancer. He underwent surgery and radiation, and, for a time, was unable to sing.

Helm's recent album, Dirt Farmer, won a Grammy in 2007 in the "Best Traditional Folk" category. It is his first solo studio album in 25 years.

This broadcast originally aired on December 11, 2007.

World Cafe Remembers Levon Helm


Levon Helm. i

Levon Helm. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of the artist
Levon Helm.

Levon Helm.

Courtesy of the artist

Set List

  • "Ashes of Love"
  • "Bye Bye Love"
  • "Going Back to Memphis"
  • "Got Me a Woman"
  • "Super 8"

This segment, from Jan. 18, 2008, is part of our Vintage Cafe series, in which we revisit some of our best studio performances. Here, we remember an Americana legend and drummer for the '60s rock group The Band, Levon Helm, who died in 2012.

Levon Helm first picked up a guitar at age 8, but soon switched to drums. Though best known as the famous drummer for the rock group The Band, Helm continued to influence music with his collaborations and solo works.

The Band's 1968 debut, Music From Big Pink, mixed country, rock, folk, classical and Americana, and proved to be a classic — as would The Band's 1976 farewell performance, captured in the album and film The Last Waltz. The Band was inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Canadian Music Hall of Fame for its influence on the rock music of the '60s, '70s and beyond.

Helm launched a solo career apart from The Band, releasing several albums. In the late '90s, he turned to blues with a new group, Levon Helm & The Barn Burners. In 2007, he released his first solo record in 25 years, the Grammy-winning Dirt Farmer.

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