Levon Holm, the legendary drummer of "The Band", died of complications from cancer at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. His cancer was diagnosed in 1998.

"He passed away peacefully at 1:30 this afternoon surrounded by his friends and band mates. All his friends were there, and it seemed like Levon was waiting for them. Ten minutes after they left we sat there and he just faded away. He did it with dignity. It was even two days ago they thought it would happen within hours, but he held on. It seems like he was Levon up to the end, doing it the way he wanted to do it. He loved us, we loved him," Helm's long-time guitarist Larry Campbell told the Rolling Stones.

"The Band" toured with Bob Dylan in 1965, '66 and '74. Holm was a true supporter of Bob Dylan when the singer decided to go "electric".

"He was my bosom buddy friend to the end, one of the last true great spirits of my or any other generation. I still can remember the first day I met him and the last day I saw him. We go back pretty far and had been through some trials together. I'm going to miss him, as I'm sure a whole lot of others will too," Bob Dylan said on his Web site.

"Thank you for 50 years of friendship and music. No more sorrows, no more troubles, no more pain. He went peacefully to that beautiful marvellous wonderful place. Levon, I'm proud of you," Garth Hudson, Levon's band mate said on his website.

According to The Chronicle Herald, Helm and his band mates - Canadians Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, Robbie Robertson and Richard Manuel - were musical virtuosos who returned to the roots of American music in the late 1960s as other rockers veered into psychedelia, heavy metal and jams.

Apart from drums, Levon also played mandolin, rhythm guitar and bass. According to the Telegraph, in January 2004 he held the first of his Midnight Ramble Sessions, a series of live performances at his studio in Woodstock, named for the travelling minstrel shows of his youth.

The members of "The Band" were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. Levon Holm is survived by his wife and daughter.