Levon Helm, who rose to prominence as the drummer for the Band, and played Loretta Lynn's father in the 1980 biopic "Coal Miner's Daughter," is in the final stages of his lengthy battle with cancer, according to a letter from his wife and daughter. The letter, which is posted at the 71-year-old's website and was shared by the Americana Music Association reads in full:

Dear Friends,

Levon is in the final stages of his battle with cancer. Please send your prayers and love to him as he makes his way through this part of his journey.

Thank you fans and music lovers who have made his life so filled with joy and celebration... he has loved nothing more than to play, to fill the room up with music, lay down the back beat, and make the people dance! He did it every time he took the stage ...

We appreciate all the love and support and concern.

From his daughter Amy, and wife Sandy

The legendary musician, whose Ramble at the Ryman won the Grammy for Best Americana Album earlier this year, was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1998. Although the illness reduced his voice to a whisper, he continued to record and to stage "Midnight Ramble" concerts at his home studio in Woodstock, N.Y.

As a child, Helm recalls listening to the Grand Ole Opry with his family. In his 1993 autobiography, "This Wheel's on Fire," he noted that he attended his first live show, Bill Monroe and His Blue Grass Boys, at just six years old. "This really tattooed my brain. I've never forgotten it," he wrote.

As tributes to the musician, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the original members of the Band in 1994, have been pouring in, his family members have reportedly been sharing them with Helm. In a post on her blog, actress Jane Fonda, who appeared with Helm in the 1984 TV movie "The Dollmaker," shared her memories of her co-star.

"I got to know Levon personally because he played my husband," she writes. "He was kind and deep and devoted to music, as a singer and playing not only drums, but harmonica, fiddle, mandolin, you name it. All you have to do is rent 'The Last Waltz,' the documentary that Martin Scorsese made of the Band's last performance together to be reminded what an astonishing drummer Levon was. He gave the Band it's powerful, driving force, a wall of pulsating rhythm. And his voice -- singing 'The Weight' -- all deep soul. I am so sad."

Levon Helm on Cancer and Music