Singer and guitarist Robbie Robertson has paid tribute to cancer-stricken rock legend Levon Helm and revealed that he visited his fellow ex-Band member on Sunday.
“Last week I was shocked and so saddened to hear that my old band mate, Levon, was in the final stages of his battle with cancer,” Robertson writes in a message posted to his facebook page. “It hit me really hard because I thought he had beaten throat cancer and had no idea that he was this ill. I spoke with his family and made arrangements to go and see him. On Sunday I went to New York and visited him in the hospital. I sat with Levon for a good while, and thought of the incredible and beautiful times we had together. It was heartwarming to be greeted by his lovely daughter Amy, whom I have known since she was born.”
Robertson also paid tribute to the musical abilities of Helm, who was both the Band’s drummer and sang several of the group’s most famous songs: “Levon is one of the most extraordinary talented people I’ve ever known and very much like an older brother to me. I am so grateful I got to see him one last time and will miss him and love him forever.”
Robertson and Helm have not always seen eye to eye. But the pair’s relationship dates back to the late ’50s when, as teenagers, they played together in the backing band of rockabilly singer Ronnie Hawkins. “Levon took me under his wing,” Robertson told EW in 2007. “When Ronnie was first trying me out, I think I’d just turned 16 years old. The places we were playing in, it sure wasn’t legal for me to be in there. It was great to have somebody that could teach you the ropes a little bit. We became like partners in crime.”
On Tuesday, Helm’s daughter Amy and wife Sandy released a statement that the drummer is in the “final stages” of his battle with cancer.
You can see Helm, Robertson, and the rest of the Band perform the classic “Up On Cripple Creek” in the clip below.
Levon Helm: Midnight Rambler