Levon Helm, Legendary Co-Founder of The Band, Dead at 71

Helm, who was diagnosed with throat cancer in the late 90's, passed away this afternoon at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. It was recently revealed to the public that he was in the final stages of his battle with cancer.

"He was surrounded by family, friends and band mates and will be remembered by all he touched as a brilliant musician and a beautiful soul," read a note posted on his official website.

Forming the renowned roots rock group The Band with notable backing-band members Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, and Richard Manuel in 1964 (they weren't officially called The Band until their 65-66 tour with Bob Dylan), Helm quickly rose to become one of the most influential musicians of all time.

Indeed, the multi-instrumentalist is #91 on Rolling Stone's list of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time (The Band ranks #50 in the publication's round-up of the top 100 Greatest Artists).

Active in music throughout his entire life, both as part of The Band and as a solo artist, Helm picked up three Grammy Awards in just the last four years — including the first-ever Grammy for for Best Americana Album in 2010.

In addition to his musical contributions, Helm is also remembered for having a respectable acting career. He made his on-screen debut in the 1980 biopic Coal Miner's Daughter, and was most recently seen in Bertrand Tavernier's novel adaptation In the Electric Mist.

He leaves behind a wife, Sandy, and a daughter, Amy. "Thank you, fans and music lovers, who have made his life so filled with joy and celebration," the two wrote in a joint statement released earlier this week. "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! He did it every time he took the stage."

[photo via Getty]