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Rick Danko
Rick Danko
December 10, 1999
Age 56
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        [Sat., December 11, 1999 2:17 AM EST ] 

                       The Band's Danko Struggled To Improve Health, Friends Say  

                       Roots-rock bassist/singer, who died Friday, apparently 
                       never lost passion for music.  

                       Staff Writer Brian Hiatt reports:  

                       The Band bassist/singer Rick Danko struggled with a severe weight 
                       problem in recent years, and he and those around him feared for his 
                       health, friends said Friday (Dec.10). 

                       Danko died in his sleep Friday morning in his Woodstock, N.Y., home, 
                       and no official cause of death has been announced. But friends said it was 
                       no secret that he was not well. 

                       "I'm not surprised it didn't shock me," producer Jim Tullio said of the 
                       news of Danko's death. Tullio, who has produced records for folk singers 
                       Richie Havens and John Prine, worked with Danko on an aborted solo 
                       project in the mid-'90s.  

                                       Tullio, who last saw Danko last week, when he 
                                       traveled to Chicago to play two solo concerts, said 
                                       the singer may have weighed as much as 350 

                                       Singer/songwriter Nicholas Tremulis, whose band 
                                       backed Danko for the Chicago shows, said Danko's 
                                       weight problem emerged as he tried to beat a 
                                       long-standing addiction to heroin. 

                                       "If anything, his weight gain was due to the [fact] 
                                       that he was trying to get healthier in that respect," 
                                       Tremulis said. 

                                       Tremulis recruited Danko to play a benefit concert 
                                       for Chicago's Neon Street homeless shelter in 
                                       March. The event was loosely organized as a tribute 
                                       to The Band's star-filled 1976 farewell concert and 
                                       film, "The Last Waltz." 

                                       Danko sang lead on such Band songs as "Stage 
                                       Fright" and also can be heard on The Band's 
                                       signature song "The Weight" . 

                       Danko's publicist, Carol Caffin, acknowledged that Danko had gained a 
                       great deal of weight in recent years but cautioned against speculation on 
                       the cause of his death. 

                       "It's very hard. He [was] a beautiful guy ... I don't like to hear negativity," 
                       Caffin said. Danko was enjoying life and was excited about his new solo 
                       record, Live on Breeze Hill, which was released in September, she said. 

                       When Danko spoke with SonicNet Music News from a New York hotel 
                       room in September, he was more eager to talk about The Band's future 
                       than its past glories. 

                       "We're as healthy as we've ever been," he said. 

                       But Danko's passing most likely marks the end of The Band as well, Tullio 
                       said. "Without Rick, I'd say it's over," he said. 

                       Drummer Levon Helm, keyboardist Garth Hudson and guitarist Robbie 
                       Robertson are the only surviving original members of The Band, and 
                       Robertson hasn't played with the group since 1976, when they first broke 

                       "I don't think they've thought of it ... I don't know what they're planning to 
                       do," Caffin said, noting that she doesn't represent Hudson or Helm. 

                       Those who knew Danko described him as a generous, fun-loving man 
                       whose passion for music never diminished over the years. 

                       "Most people in the music industry are ... cynical and jaded. I never met a 
                       man who was less cynical," Tremulis said. 

                       "He always had too many people on the guest list that's the kind of guy 
                       that Rick was," Caffin, his publicist for eight years, said. 

                       Just this week, Danko completed a U.S. tour in support of his new album, 
                       playing his final show Tuesday at the Ark in Ann Arbor, Mich. 

                       Performing with keyboardist Aaron Hurwitz, who produced The Band's 
                       most recent album, Danko played two sets instead of the one that had 
                       been expected, David Siglin, the club's director, said. 

                       "He was really into the show," Siglin said. "If he was in really bad health, 
                       he was ignoring it completely." 

                       Danko planned to donate the proceeds from his album to the 
                       environmental charity Greenpeace, and he often supported many other 
                       charities in the past, his publicist said. 

                       "Music has been really kind to us over the years. It's nice to be able to put 
                       something back, instead of just take, take, take," Danko said last year. 
                       "It's good that we can give something back, whether it be [for] mental 
                       health or child-abuse programs or Parkinson's disease or Down 

                       Several of Danko's friends couldn't bring themselves to refer to him in the 
                       past tense Friday. "There's no one like him," Tremulis said. 

                       (Sonic Net Staff Writer Chris Nelson contributed to this report.) 

        Tuesday, December 14, 1999  

                                     Paying tribute to Danko 

                                     'One of the kindest hearts to have 
                                     graced this planet' 

                                           By JIM SLOTEK -- Toronto Sun 

                                        Funeral services are in Woodstock, N.Y., 
                                     tomorrow for The Band bassist Rick Danko, who 
                                     died Friday in his sleep. A Toronto contingent will 
                                     include Ronnie Hawkins, blues guitarist Colin 
                                     Linden and his wife, and keyboardist Richard 

                                     Bell has filled in with The Band on keyboard on 
                                     the heels of other tragedies, the suicide of original 
                                     keyboardist Richard Manuel in 1986 and the 
                                     heart attack death of Manuel's replacement Stan 
                                     Szelest in 1991.  

                                     "Rick (Danko) dealt with more grief than I ever 
                                     did in my life, and yet he always had a positive 
                                     attitude," says Linden of his friend, whose drug 
                                     and alcohol battles often overshadowed his talent. 
                                     "I feel a bit selfish being so bummed out."  

                                     Meanwhile, Robbie Robertson released a 
                                     statement yesterday summing up his loss: "I think 
                                     Rick was one of the greatest and most soulful 
                                     singers I've ever heard. Definitely, the most 
                                     original bass player I've ever heard and one of the 
                                     kindest hearts to have graced this planet. I feel 
                                     blessed to have known him and loved him and to 
                                     have had the opportunity to work with him for all 
                                     those years. I will sadly miss him."