The Band may be the most original name for a band ever. They were referred to as the band, so they adopted the name, while touring with the legendary Bob Dylan and the not so legendary Tiny Tim.
The photo above looks like it could have been taken in the 1800’s, since this was a very scruffy looking band. They look more like an outlaw gang, than musicians in the photo.
Joined Ronnie Hawkins And The Hawks
All the members of The Band gradually joined Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks, with the exception of Levon Helm, who already a member of the Hawks backing band.
It was in 1963, when the Hawks broke up with Ronnie Hawkins, because they were going in a different musical direction. It was odd that Ronnie Hawkins found himself out of his own group, which would be come Levon Helm and the Hawks. They also recorded under the name of the Canadian Squires during this time.
Touring With Bob Dylan
The Band began touring with Bob Dylan, first with only Robbie Robertson and Levon Helm, but then the entire band, would later join Dylan on the road.
By this time Dylan was trying to be more of a rocker, than a folk singer so The Band fit nicely into his plans to have an edgier sound. However some of the folk song purists were calling Dylan by the name of Judas, since they didn’t appreciate Dylan converting into a rock singer.
Made Woodstock Appearance
The Band made an appearance at Woodstock in 1969, but their appearance wasn’t shown in the movie Woodstock, due to legal ramifications.
Eric Clapton, George Harrison Influenced By The Band
The Band made a huge impact on other artists of that era, including Eric Clapton and George Harrison. Clapton was said to have wanted to join The Band. Clapton liked The Band’s Music From Big Pink album so much, that he said it changed his life.
Eric Clapton singing in The Last Waltz movie. Notice how The Band covers for Eric when his guitar strap becomes unattached. This is guitar playing at its best.
The Last Waltz Documentary
By 1976 Robbie Robertson, who apparently perceived himself the leader of The Band, decided he didn’t want to tour, any longer, so planned a huge retirement celebration for The Band on Thanksgiving Day of that year. Many of the biggest names in music were there and movie director Martin Scorsese filmed the concert.
Whether you like the music or not, the movie will bring memories flowing back ,of a long ago era, when hippies were still dominant in San Francisco, where the concert was filmed at the Winterland Ballroom. One musical memory from the night was the use of a tuba in the concert by the orchestra.
Levon Helm singing the Robbie Robertson composition The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, a song about the end of the Civil War.
Bob Dylan singing Baby Let Me Follow You Down in the voice we like to remember him by.
Levon Helm singing The Weight which was voted 41st best song on Rolling Stone’s list of Top 500 Songs.
My son Steve had told me about the Last Waltz movie being made about The Band. I really had paid no attention The Band and hadn’t heard of the movie.
Be forewarned that the language in this movie is not for kids, but the music is what really matters the most, plus the reminders of a different era.
The Eric Clapton video of him singing in Last Waltz, is only the beginning of the music from this movie.
This is Levon Helm singing Ophelia, my personal favorite from the movie.
Neil Young singing Helpless.
Neil Diamond singing Dry Your Eyes
Rick Danko singing It Makes No Difference
All the singers join in on I Shall Be Released
The Band would resurface in 1983, but without Robbie Robertson. Levon Helm feuded with Robertson who was credited as songwriter on most of their original songs, but Helm thought the songwriting was more of a team effort. Their feud prevented Helm from even attending, the group’s induction, into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. Helm also did not attend the night, The Band was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 2008.
Tragic Death of Richard Manuel
Richard Manuel, the pianist/drummer for The Band had been a heavy drinker, earlier in his career, but later would suffer a relapse. He told fellow band member Garth Hudson thanks for 25 years of music, not long before hanging himself in a Orlando, Florida motel on March 4, 1986. He was 42 at the time of his death.
Rick Danko Dies in 1999
The death of Rick Danko from drug related heart failure on December 10, 1999 signaled the end of The Band. Danko had been taking prescribed morphine since a 1968 car accident, which left him in great pain, but he was still able to sing and play the guitar for the next 31 years.
His death came in his sleep in Marbletown, N.Y. home, which ironically was close to Woodstock.
Surviving Members of The Band
Levon Helm has not retired from the music business, but is still going strong and also has some acting credits:
Helm has also had a considerable career as an actor. He has appeared in the movies The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, Shooter,Smooth Talk, The Right Stuff, The Dollmaker, Feeling Minnesota, End of the Line, In the Electric Mist, Fire Down Below, Staying Togetherand portrayed Loretta Lynn‘s father in the film Coal Miner’s Daughter opposite Sissy Spacek and Tommy Lee Jones. – from Wikipedia
Robertson Writing Music For Soundtracks
Robbie Robertson 68, is still active today and has done a lot of work, with movie soundtracks. He has been active in the music business for 51 years.
Garth Hudson Still Recording Today
Garth Hudson was the resident musical genius of The Band who played the organ, piano, saxophone, accordion and electronic keyboards. Hudson is still active at 74. He has worked with music for movie soundtracks and has recorded five albums since 2000.
Music Chart Busts
The Band’s highest ranking single on the Billboard charts was Up on Cripple Creek which topped out at #25. Even The Weight did not sell well as it ended up at #63.
Last Waltz Movie Worth Watching
Martin Scorsese’s Last Waltz is worth watching if you haven’t seen it. It is also worth watching again, if you have seen it. It takes us back to a time a lot of us would like to forget, but also back to the music back then. There are not that many chances to see and hear a tuba being played in a band.
The street scenes shown at the first of the movie, will be especially enjoyed by those in San Francisco, who have walked those streets.