Levon Helm in 'Final Stages' of Cancer Battle
04/18/2012 AT 10:45 AM EDT
Helms's wife Sandy and daughter Amy made the announcement late Tuesday on his website.
"Please send your prayers and love to him as he makes his way through this part of his journey," they wrote. "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 ... We appreciate all the love and support and concern."
The Arkansas-born Helm played in a rockabilly band in the late 1950s before moving to Canada and joining guitarist Robbie Robertson and three other musicians to form what would become Bob Dylan's back-up band in the mid-1960s.
Later called simply The Band, the group featured Helm's drumming and vocals on such songs as "Up on Cripple Creek" and "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" until their final performance in 1976, which Martin Scorsese filmed as the movie The Last Waltz.