April 17, 2012 / 9:30 PM / 8 years ago

The Band drummer Levon Helm in final stages of cancer

Legendary rock drummer Levon Helm is all smiles as a presenter the 22nd annual W.C. Handy Awards show at the Orpheum Theatre in Memphis, May 24, 2001 in this file photo.

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Drummer Levon Helm, a longtime member of The Band, is in the final stages of cancer, his family said on Tuesday.

Helm, 71, who also toured with Ringo Starr’s All Star band in the 1980s and won a Grammy Award for his 2011 release “Ramble at the Ryman,” had canceled a series of recent gigs, raising fears about his health.

A message posted on his official website by his wife Sandy and daughter Amy, said that Helm “is in the final stages of his battle with cancer. Please send your prayers and love to him as he makes his way through this part of his journey.”

“Thank you fans and music lovers who have made his life so filled with joy and celebration... 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,” the message added.

Robbie Robertson, former frontman of The Band, sent a message of “love and prayers” to Helm during a speech at the weekend at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

Helm, who also sang vocals and plays guitar and mandolin, played with The Band until their 1976 “The Last Waltz” farewell performance, which was filmed by director Martin Scorsese.

He rejoined The Band when it reunited some years later without Robertson, and then forged a solo career.

Reporting By Jill Serjeant; Editing by Piya Sinha-Roy

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