Robbie Robertson, estranged from Levon Helm for decades, visited his mate from The Band in the hospital to bid farewell, the Canadian aboriginal singer announced on Wednesday.
“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. It hit me really hard because I thought he had beaten throat cancer and had no idea that he was this ill,” Robertson said on his Facebook page on April 18. “I spoke with his family and made arrangements to go and see him.”
He visited Helm in the hospital “for a good while,” he said.
Robertson had already sent “love and prayers” to Helm while at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony over the weekend. On Sunday Helm’s wife and daughter posted a statement on the music legend’s website.
“Dear Friends,” reads the simple note. “Levon 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.”
The two famously played together in The Band back in the 1960s and ’70s and then just as famously had a falling out. In fact Helm boycotted The Band’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994 because Robertson would be there.
Helm had been battling throat cancer and beaten it enough to perform in March. But recently a number of appearances, including a much-heralded 72nd-birthday party, were canceled. Robertson and keyboardist Garth Hudson are the two remaining survivors of The Band, and Hudson also released a comment on his website.
“I am too sad for words right now,” he wrote. “Please continue praying for Levon and family.”
Robertson, who spent a good portion of his childhood with extended family from his Mohawk mother’s side on the Six Nations reserve, remained a fixture on the music scene long after The Band split up. He spoke to Indian Country Today Media Network last year around the time he was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame.
In his April 18 statement Robertson acknowledged the mentor role that Helm had played in his life.
“Levon is one of the most extraordinary talented people I’ve ever known and very much like an older brother to me,” Robertson wrote. “I am so grateful I got to see him one last time and will miss him and love him forever.”