Firstly, shout out to fellow blogger Aphoristical whose current offering ranked his 10 Best Songs by the Band. Thanks for the inspiration. (We have seven songs in common). In my book, you cannot listen to enough music by these guys.
I wrote a series on the Band a while back which you can find by going to the search bar. But for those with less patience, Wikipedia says this: “The Band was a Canadian-American rock band formed in Toronto, Ontario, in 1967. It consisted of four Canadians and one American: Rick Danko (bass guitar, vocals, fiddle), Garth Hudson (keyboards, accordion, saxophone), Richard Manuel (keyboards, drums, lap steel guitar, vocals), Robbie Robertson (guitar, vocals), and Levon Helm (drums, vocals, mandolin, guitar).
The Band combined elements of Americana, folk, rock, jazz, country, and R&B, influencing subsequent musicians such as the Eagles, Elton John, the Grateful Dead, Eric Clapton, and Wilco.
Between 1958 and 1963, the group was known as the Hawks, a backing band for rockabilly singer Ronnie Hawkins. In the mid-1960s, they gained recognition for backing Bob Dylan. After leaving Dylan and changing their name to The Band, they released several records to critical and popular acclaim, including their debut album Music from Big Pink, in 1968.n Roger Waters called Music from Big Pink the second-most influential record in the history of rock and roll.”
High praise indeed. Here’s my Top 10 along with the obligatory Spotify List.
10. Acadian Driftwood – I didn’t know much of the history involved when I first heard this song. But it turns out it’s a tune about the “was the forced removal by the British of the Acadian people from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, and the present-day U.S. state of Maine.” Some Acadians made their way down to Lousiana and became Cajuns. Aphoristical advises that Byron Berlne plays fiddle and I would add that he also plays on the Stones’ “Country Honk.”
9. Ophelia. A buddy of mine gets a kick ot of saying he once had a girlfriend named Ophelia HardOn. But that’ neither here nor there. Just a fun tune.
8. Stage Fright.
See the man with the stage fright
Just standin’ up there to give it all his might
And he got caught in the spotlight
But when we get to the end
He wants to start all over again
7. Chest Fever. This song from their debut album kicks off with Garth Hudson’s insane Phantom of the Opera organ. The song has an unusual structure and I’m not really sure what it’s about.
6. The Shape I’m In. A song sung by and probably about Richard Manuel who was never really in very good shape during his too-short lifetime.
5. It Makes No Difference. About a lost love, arguably The Band’s saddest song.
4. Up On Cripple Creek. You cannot beat a song with lyrics like this
Up on Cripple Creek she sends me
If I spring a leak she mends me
I don’t have to speak, she defends me
A drunkard’s dream if I ever did see one
3. The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down. One of the great things about the Band is their ability to write mini-history lessons. I can understand their writing about Canada. But so knowingly about the American Civil War? Sung by the American, Levon Helm. I often wonder how people in the South feel about singing along with this tune.
2. Rag Mama Rag. Just a fun tune. Bring your skinny little body back home
1. The Weight. No. 41 on Rolling Stone‘s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, Pitchfork Media named it the 13th best song of the Sixties, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame named it one of the 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.
The Band are not a heavily covered group and so as likely as not this is their most covered song. Aretha Franklin and some other soul singers have covered it, perhaps pulled in by the “I pulled into Nazareth” line. Alas, nothing to do with religion. Robbie Robertson came up with that because Martin Guitars was based there.
Picture By Capitol Records – Billboard, page 19, 28 November 1970, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27031785