My Top Ten Favorite songs by the band known as The Band

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.Ā 

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 rockĀ band formed inĀ Toronto, Ontario, in 1967. It consisted of four Canadians and one American:Ā Rick DankoĀ (bass guitar, vocals, fiddle),Ā Garth HudsonĀ (keyboards, accordion, saxophone),Ā Richard ManuelĀ (keyboards, drums, lap steel guitar, vocals),Ā Robbie RobertsonĀ (guitar, vocals), andĀ Levon HelmĀ (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.nĀ Roger WatersĀ calledĀ 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.”Ā 

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 onĀ Rolling Stones 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, Pitchfork MediaĀ named it the 13th best song of the Sixties,Ā and theĀ Rock and Roll Hall of FameĀ named it one of theĀ 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.Ā 

Picture By Capitol Records – Billboard, page 19, 28 November 1970, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27031785

31 thoughts on “My Top Ten Favorite songs by the band known as The Band

    1. Firstly, sorry. Somehow you wound up in spam. The image is, yes, a Les Paul. Just a screen grab I’m afraid. I play guitar but my main ax is an Ibanez. I also have a Gibson ES335.

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        1. Weirdly you wound up in spam again. Can’t explain that at all. I keep approving them. Never owned a Les Paul Yeah, too heavy but you can’t beat the tone.

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        2. Good to go this time. Your comments are more than welcome. A lot of my earlier commenters have given up blogging, hence commenting. And we need more female commenters!

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        3. Well, ‘my’ music is zero original. I like to play classic rock sons, blues. I am very happy covering stuff. One day I will post a song but I haven’t gotten around to it yet. One day that will happen this year.

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  1. The weight by the band has been my favourite song for so many years now. I never get tired of hearing it, especially with Levon Helm singing. There’s a great live concert version from the last waltz too.

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    1. Agreed on ‘The Weight.’ There’s something compelling about it and you can’t help but sing along. Several of the tunes on the Spotify list in the post are from ‘Last Waltz.’ (A show I would love to have been at.) I was taking a walk and listening to that album yesterday. Interestingly one of my favorite tunes on that album is not The Band but Van Morrison’s ‘Caravan.’

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  2. Yeah it’s a timeless song that you gotta sing. The band really were a special group. Yeah I love that song by Van Morrison.

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  3. Thanks for the shoutout! I would have guessed ‘It Makes No Difference’ to be the most covered – seems like a more universal sentiment than ‘The Weight’. But I looked up SecondHandSongs and ‘The Weight’ has a ton more covers. It has a bit of country and a bit of gospel, and has artists from both genres covering it.

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    1. It was a pretty easy bet. Of the two, ‘The Weight’ is far better known. My wife loves it and couldn’t even tell you the name of the song or who did it. It’s an iconic tune whereas ‘Difference’ is not as well-known.

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  4. A deep pool of great music. Take a pin, close your eyes and stick it into their songs and you will come up with a treat. Your list cant be argued with only that I could not pick ten. Here’s a few that i grabbed from top of my head that live there.
    Hobo Jungle
    Out Of The Blue
    The Rumor
    Forbidden Fruit
    When I Paint My Masterpiece
    Where Do We Go From Here
    Saved
    Dont Do it
    Back To Memphis
    Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever
    Atlantic City
    The last few being covers
    Danko hits it out of the park with ‘Makes No Difference’

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    1. Well, well, well, the prodigal Canuck returned. The only reason a couple of those are not on my list is because they are covers. I’ll put your choices on my Spotify list if you promise to grab a stogie and go for a walk.

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        1. Done. Added in Aphoristical’s song for good measure. You’ve got enough tunes to walk to the Yukon or at least to the Chateau Frontenac.

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  5. Two Band top 10 song lists back-to-back is pretty remarkable. I dig your picks as well. In fact, with “The Shape I’m In”, it has one of the tunes that wasn’t on Graham’s list, which I would probably include in my picks.

    As I noted in a comment to his post, while I know a good deal of their songs, I haven’t fully explored The Band. As such, coming up with a well-informed list would be a bit of a challenge.

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