In 1998, Helm was diagnosed with throat cancer, which caused him to lose his singing voice. After undergoing treatment for the disease, his cancer eventually went into remission, which allowed him to gradually regain use of his voice. His 2007 comeback album Dirt Farmer earned the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Album in February 2008, and in November of that year, Rolling Stone magazine ranked him No. 91 in the list of The 100 Greatest Singers of All Time. In 2010, Electric Dirt, his 2009 follow-up to Dirt Farmer, won the first ever Grammy Award for Best Americana Album, an inaugural category in 2010. In 2011, his live album Ramble at the Ryman was nominated for the Grammy in the same category and won. On April 17, 2012, his wife and daughter announced on Helm's website that he was "in the final stages of his battle with cancer" and thanked fans while requesting prayers. Two days later, Helm died at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.
Dylans band, then referred to simply as "the band." Was contemplating a recording contract, Helm had dubbed the band as "The Crackers." However, when Robertson and their new manager Albert Grossman worked out the contracts, the group's name was cited as "The Band." Under these contracts, The Band was contracted to Grossman, who in turn contracted their services to Capitol Records. This arrangement allowed The Band to release recordings on other labels if the work was done in support of Dylan. This allowed The Band to play on Dylan's Planet Waves album and on The Last Waltz, both non-Capitol releases. The Band also recorded their own album Music from Big Pink, which catapulted them into stardom.
On Music From Big Pink, Manuel was the most prominent vocalist and Helm sang mainly backup, with the exception of "The Weight." However, as Manuel's health deteriorated and Robbie Robertson's songwriting increasingly looked to the South for influence and direction, subsequent albums relied more and more on Helm's vocals, alone or in harmony with Danko. Helm played drums for perhaps 85% of The Band's songs, including most of those for which he sang lead. On the others, Manuel switched to drums while Helm played mandolin or, on rare occasion, guitar or bass guitar. The entire group was multi-instrumental and certain songs featured Manuel on drums, Helm on mandolin (as on "Evangeline"), rhythm guitar (the 12-string guitar backdrop to "Daniel and the Sacred Harp" is by Helm), or bass (while Danko played fiddle).
Helm remained with The Band until their 1976 farewell performance, The Last Waltz, which was recorded in a documentary film by director Martin Scorsese.The documentary is widely considered the greatest rock and roll film ever made. Many music enthusiasts know Helm through his appearance in the concert film, a performance remarkable for the fact that Helm's vocal tracks appear substantially as he sang them during a grueling concert. However, Helm repudiated his involvement with The Last Waltz shortly after the completion of its final scenes. In his autobiography, Helm offers scathing criticisms of the film and of Robertson, who produced it.