Levon Helm, the former drummer of The Band, is in the final stages of his long battle with cancer, his family said Tuesday.
A message posted by Helm’s wife, Sandy, and daughter, Amy, on the 71-year-old’s website said: “Please send your prayers and love to him as he makes his way through this part of his journey.”
Within hours of the announcement Helm’s Facebook page had been flooded with messages of support from fans. More than 7,000 comments had been posted by early Wednesday, CNN reports.
Helm’s former bandmates also offered their love and support for the artist. Musician Garth Hudson, a founding member of The Band, said on his website:
“I am too sad for words right now. Please continue praying for Levon and family.”
Another former bandmate, Robbie Robertson, sent his “prayers and love” to Helms during an induction speech at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony in Cleveland on Saturday, CBS News reports.
The son of a cotton farmer, Helm was born in Elaine, Arkansas, and gained fame in the late 1960s and 1970s both as The Band’s drummer and the vocalist behind many of the group’s hits, such as “The Weight,” “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” and “Up on Cripple Creek.”
Helm was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1998, with the illness severely affecting his ability to sing, according to the Associated Press. But he continued to do so, both on albums and at concerts at his home in Woodstock.
The Band’s original members were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.