Levon Helm in the final stages of long battle with cancer

NEW ORLEANS - APRIL 25: Singer/Songwriter Levon Helm (Levon Helm Band) performs at the 2010 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival Presented By Shell at the Fair Grounds Race Course on April 25, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Levon Helm Rick Diamond

Singer/Songwriter Levon Helm performs at the 2010 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival Presented By Shell at the Fair Grounds Race Course on April 25, 2010, in New Orleans.
Getty

(CBS News) Levon Helm, founding member of The Band, is in the final stages of his battle with cancer, his family said Tuesday.

The 71-year-old musician's daughter, Amy, and wife, Sandy, posted a message on his website, noting, "Please send your prayers and love to him as he makes his way through this part of his journey."

Pictures: Levon Helm
Read more: Levon Helms will hear fans' online posts

The message went on to explain, "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."

Helm was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1998, but that didn't stop him from performing and recording albums.

His 2007 solo album, "Dirt Farmer," and 2009's "Electric Dirt" both won Grammys.

In recent years, Helm led a regular series of intimate jam sessions called "The Midnight Ramble" at his home in Woodstock, N.Y. He often had guests join him on stage for the shows, which would go into the wee hours of the morning. When his voice wasn't up to par, Helm would play drums with a rotating group of vocalists.

Helm has been on the road lately with The Levon Helm Band, but was recently forced to cancel some shows, including an appearance at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival later this month.

Helm's voice could be heard on such classics as "The Weight," "Up on Cripple Creek" and "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down." He was part of The Band's critically-acclaimed 1976 farewell concert, "The Last Waltz," which was filmed by director Martin Scorsese.

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