US rock musician remembered for human rights activism

Amnesty International added its voice to tributes paid to influential US rock musician Levon Helm, 71, who passed away on Thursday in his home in Woodstock, New York after a battle with throat cancer. Levon Helm was an active supporter of human rights. “Toast to Freedom”, a commemorative song celebrating Amnesty International and set for release this May, began in his barn (Levon Helm Studios) and spread to all corners of the world – ultimately leading to Israeli and Iranian artists singing together. “On behalf of Amnesty International’s millions of members around the world I want to say how grateful we are to Levon Helm for his generous artistic contribution and support that will make a real difference to our life-saving work around the world,” said Bill Shipsey, founder of Art for Amnesty. “Levon Helm’s life was a celebration of art and love. He honoured his life by giving beautiful music to millions of people across the world and by filling us with passion, joy and beats. He is an inspiration to all of us and a reminder to spend life loving others and to fill the world with rhythmic power.”Originally from the southern US state of Arkansas, Helm was a drummer and vocalist for seminal rock group The Band. Often described as the heart of the group, he led them through a prolific music career that included a legendary collaboration with folk singer/songwriter Bob Dylan in the 1960s. Their music dealt with themes including civil rights and social upheaval. “In the late 1960s and early 1970s when the [USA] was divided, The Band still projected a sense of unity and brought generations of fans together from all over the world,” the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame said in a statement.