Levon Helm, the widely respected and influential singer and drummer with the Band, whose Arkansas drawl colored the group's signature hits, including "Up on Cripple Creek" and "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," died Thursday in New York of throat cancer. He was 71.
One of three lead singers of the group that first gained fame backing Bob Dylan when he "went electric" in 1965, Helm and the Band largely created the template for a genre now labeled "Americana music" for its blend of rock, country, folk, blues and gospel strains.
"Levon is one of the most extraordinary, talented people I've ever known and very much like an older brother to me," the Band's guitarist Robbie Robertson said in a statement. "I am so grateful I got to see him one last time and will miss him and love him forever."