Fans honor Helm at Woodstock

People wait outside the Woodstock Playhouse to board buses to go to a public memorial for musician Levon Helm at his home in Woodstock, N.Y., on Thursday.

WOODSTOCK, N.Y. — Busloads of friends and fans of Levon Helm traveled to his home Thursday to say goodbye to the influential singer and drummer for The Band, who died of cancer last week.

The public memorial was held at the Woodstock barn where Helm held his Saturday night Midnight Ramble concerts in New York’s Hudson Valley. His closed casket, on the second floor of the barn, was surrounded by flowers and flanked by his drum kit and a piano.

Hundreds of friends, neighbors and fans filed silently past the coffin, set against a backdrop of a family photo slideshow. Nearby, family members greeted visitors.

Mourners — a crowd of mostly middle-aged people with a smattering of aging hippies and a few young people — were quietly encouraged to keep the line moving. Some carried flowers, and a few pressed handkerchiefs to their faces.

“He was an icon but also the guy next door,” said Al Caron of Woodstock.

“He played music on the village green,” Caron said. “The Rambles were like a revival meeting. There was just a sense of euphoria from the minute you arrived at his home and he will be missed.”

After a private funeral today, Helm will be buried in Woodstock Cemetery next to Rick Danko, The Band’s singer and bassist who died in 1999.

Helm, Danko, Garth Hudson, Robbie Robertson and Richard Manuel’s first album as The Band was 1968’s

“Music From Big Pink.” That album and its follow-up, “The Band,” remain landmark albums of the era, and songs such as “The Weight,” “Dixie Down” and “Cripple Creek” have become rock standards.