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In his memoir, “This Wheel’s on Fire,” Helm said some hard feelings about Robertson also included his getting songwriting credits on Band songs that other members considered group efforts. Robertson would deny the allegations. On his Facebook page this week, he revealed that he had been devastated to learn of Helm’s illness and had visited him in the hospital.

“I sat with Levon for a good while, and thought of the incredible and beautiful times we had together,” wrote Robertson, who added that Helm was “very much like an older brother” to him.

Helm released several solo albums and toured with Ringo Starr’s “All-Starrs.” Without Robertson, the Band reunited in the 1980s, but never approached its previous success. Manuel hanged himself in 1986. Danko died in 1999, a day after his 56th birthday. The Band did play at a Dylan anniversary concert at Madison Square Garden in 1992 and Helm, Danko and Keith Richards collaborated on the rocker “Deuce and a Quarter.” Original members of The Band were inducted into the Rock `N’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.

To the end, Helm was a rock `n’ roller, as determined in his own way as Virgil Caine. Helm was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1998, his voice was shredded and he was badly in debt. He saw no choice but to get back on stage. In 2004, he began a series of free-wheeling late night shows in his barn in Woodstock that were patterned after medicine shows from his youth. Any night of the bi-weekly Midnight Rambles could feature Gillian Welch, Elvis Costello or his daughter Amy on vocals and violin. Meanwhile, he recorded “Dirt Farmer” in 2007, followed by “Electric Dirt” in 2009. Both albums won Grammys. He won another this year for “Ramble at the Ryman.”

An undisclosed medical procedure forced Helm to cancel a three Midnight Ramble concerts in February. By April, family members posted a note on Helm’s website saying “Levon is in the final stages of his battle with cancer.”

“(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!” read the note from his daughter Amy, and wife Sandy. “He did it every time he took the stage…”




AP Writer Michael Hill contributed to this report from Albany, N.Y.


Hillel Italie is a national writer for The Associated Press. Follow him at