Born May 26, 1940 into a musical family in the state of Arkansas, U.S.A., he was christened Mark Lavon Helm. By the age of 8 he played guitar, but later also played mandolin and most famously, the drums. By the late '50s he was recruited by performer Ronnie Hawkins to play drums in his back up band, called The Hawks.
Ronnie Hawkins and The Hawks (with Levon Helm on drums)
By the time they released their solo album Music from Big Pink, in 1968 they were practically a legend! Their song, The Weight with vocals by Levon Helm was used in the movie Easy Rider in 1969.
This is one of my favourite songs of The Band with Helm's lead vocals.
After the break-up of The Band in 1976 Helm had a varied solo career which also included acting. He had a wonderful part as Loretta Lynn's father in Coal Miner's Daughter (1980).
He wrote his autobiography in 1993, This Wheel's On Fire. (I have just added it to my Must Read list!) Levon Helm continued performing his music even after his voice was damaged from throat cancer in the late 1990's. Unfortunately the cancer returned recently and finally claimed his life. Levon Helm died today and took a large part of American Rock history with him.