Mark Lavon “Levon” Helm was born in Arkansas on May 26, 1940. Most know his claim to fame to be as the drummer for The Band, but Helm was in fact a multi-instrumentalist. He was also a vocalist and did some acting. Helms started his performing career in the late 1950′s with Ronnie Hawkins. The Hawks re-located to Canada in 1959 and signed with Roulette records.
It was here, in the early 1960s, where Helm and Hawkins recruited Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel, and Garth Hudson, all eventual members of The Band. In 1963, a split with Hawkins occurred and Helm and the others started touring under the name “Levon and The Hawks,” and as “The Canadian Squires” before changing back to “The Hawks.”
In the mid 1960s, musician Bob Dylan asked The Hawks to be his backing band and in 1968, EMI records signed them as The Band.
Helm was known for his warm, soulful, country-accented vocals and creative drumming. Within a performing career that lasted some five decades, Helm’s discography is extensive, including 2010 and 2011 Grammy Awards, while his filmography includes Fire Down Below, Coal Miner’s Daughter and The Right Stuff. After being diagnosed with throat cancer, he also regularly held Midnight Rambles, live performances with guest artists, to raise money for his medical bills. In 2010, a documentary on Helm’s life titled Ain’t In It for My Health: A Film About Levon Helm was released.
Levon Helm died of cancer April 19, 2012, he was 71.