AFter The Band split up he started acting in movies, playing Yeager's crew chief, Jack Ridley, in "The Right Stuff". Lorette Lynn's father in "Coal Miner's Daughter" and other supporting roles, but he had dropped out of the scene for a while. I'd heard he had throat cancer and could no longer sing. We watched a movie the other day on Pay Per View, a mostly forgettable testosterone soaked shoot-'em-up with Mark Wahlberg called "Shooter" where Marky Mark plays a loner CIA type assassin, set-up and out for revenge. He goes to see a retired arms expert, and if I hadn't have recognized the rythum and inflection of his voice I'd have never known it was Helm. He was drawn and gaunt like the Crypt Keeper with a fuzzy raspy voice, just a shade of the strapping atheticism of his days with The Band. I was so astonished at the changes in him that I put the movie on pause and hurried in to look it up on imdb.com. Sure enough, the actor listed was Levon.
I had a boss once at a private transfer ambulance I worked for when I was between jobs who had surgery for throat cancer. It left him with no sense of hunger or satiation and no sense of taste. He had to eat on a rigid schedule and he had to have his food prepared for him because there was nothing that appealed to him to eat. He wasted away rapidly if left on his own. I wonder if Helm is going through something like that?