|Also known as||
Levon and the Hawks
|Origin||Toronto, Ontario, Canada|
|Genres||Roots rock, Americana, folk rock, country rock|
|Years active||1964–1977, 1983–1999|
|Labels||Capitol, Rhino, Warner Bros.|
|Associated acts||Ronnie Hawkins, Bob Dylan, John Simon, Allen Toussaint, Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band|
The Band was a Canadian-American roots rock group that originally consisted of Rick Danko (bass guitar, double bass, fiddle, trombone, vocals), Levon Helm (drums, mandolin, guitar, vocals), Garth Hudson (keyboard instruments, saxophones, trumpet), Richard Manuel (piano, drums, baritone saxophone, vocals) and Robbie Robertson (guitar, vocals). The members of the Band first came together as they joined rockabilly singer Ronnie Hawkins' backing group The Hawks one by one between 1958 and 1963.
In 1964, they separated from Hawkins, after which they toured and released a few singles as Levon and the Hawks and the Canadian Squires. The next year, Music from Big Pink. Because they were always "the band" to various frontmen, Helm said the name "The Band" worked well when the group came into its own.[N 1] The group began performing officially as The Band in 1968, and went on to release ten studio albums. Dylan continued to collaborate with The Band over the course of their career, including a joint 1974 tour.
The original configuration of the Band ended its touring career in 1976 with an elaborate live ballroom performance featuring numerous musical celebrities. This performance was immortalized in Martin Scorsese's 1978 documentary The Last Waltz. The Band recommenced touring in 1983 without guitarist Robbie Robertson, who had found success with a solo career and as a Hollywood music producer. Following a 1986 show, Richard Manuel was found dead of suicide, but the remaining three members continued to tour and record albums with a revolving door of musicians filling Manuel's and Robertson's respective roles, before finally settling on Richard Bell, Randy Ciarlante, and Jim Weider. Danko died of heart failure in 1999, after which the group broke up for good. Levon Helm was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1998, and after a series of treatments was able to regain use of his voice. He continued to perform and released several successful albums until he succumbed to the disease in 2012.
The group was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1989 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked them No. 50 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, and in 2008, they received the Grammy's Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2004, "The Weight" was ranked the 41st best song of all time in Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list.
- 1960–1964: The Hawks 1.1
- 1965–67: with Bob Dylan 1.2
- 1968–1972: initial success 1.3
- 1973–75: move to Shangri-La 1.4
- 1976–78: The Last Waltz 1.5
- 1983–89: reformation 1.6
- 1990–99: return to recording 1.7
- Members' other endeavors 1.8
- Musical style 2
- Copyright controversy 3
- Legacy 4
- Members 5
- Discography 6
- See also 7
- References 8
- External links 9
1960–1964: The Hawks
The members of The Band gradually came together as a part of Toronto-based, rockabilly singer Ronnie Hawkins' backing group, the Hawks: Helm, an original Hawk who journeyed with Hawkins from Arkansas to Ontario, then Robertson, Danko, Manuel, and finally, Hudson. Hawkins' act was popular in and around Toronto, and he had an effective way of eliminating his musical competition: when a promising band appeared, Hawkins would often hire their best musicians for his own group; Robertson, Danko, and Manuel came under Hawkins' tutelage this way.
While most of the Hawks were eager to join Hawkins' group, getting Hudson to join was a different story. He had earned a college degree, planned on a career as a music teacher, and was interested in playing rock music only as a hobby. The Hawks were in awe of his wild, full-bore organ sound and often begged him to join. Hudson finally relented, so long as the Hawks each paid him $10 per week to be their instructor; all music theory questions were directed to Hudson. While pocketing a little extra cash, Hudson was also able to mollify his family's fears that his education had gone to waste. The piano–organ combination was uncommon in rock music, and for all his aggressive playing, Hudson also brought a level of musical sophistication.
There is a view that jazz is 'evil' because it comes from evil people, but actually the greatest priests on 52nd Street, and on the streets of New York City were the musicians. They were doing the greatest healing work. And they knew how to punch through music which would cure and make people feel good.—Garth Hudson, The Last Waltz
With Hawkins, they recorded a few singles in this period and became well known as the best rock group in the thriving Toronto music scene. Hawkins regularly convened all-night rehearsals following long club shows, with the result that the young musicians quickly developed great technical prowess on their instruments.
By 1964, the group had split from Hawkins over personal differences. They were tiring of playing the same songs so often and wanted to perform original material, and they were weary of Hawkins's somewhat dictatorial leadership. He would fine the Hawks if they brought their girlfriends to the clubs, fearing it might reduce the numbers of "available" girls who came to performances, or if they smoked marijuana. Alcohol and pills were acceptable but Canada then had stiff penalties against marijuana possession.
Robertson later said, "Eventually, [Hawkins] built us up to the point where we outgrew his music and had to leave. He shot himself in the foot, really, bless his heart, by sharpening us into such a crackerjack band that we had to go on out into the world, because we knew what his vision was for himself, and we were all younger and more ambitious musically."
Upon leaving Hawkins in 1964, they were briefly known as the Levon Helm Sextet with sax player Jerry Penfound being the sixth member, then Levon and the Hawks after Penfound's departure. In 1965, they released a single on Ware Records under the name Canadian Squires, but returned as Levon and the Hawks for a recording session for Atco later in 1965. Also that year, Helm and the band met blues singer and harmonica player Sonny Boy Williamson. They wanted to record with him, offering to become his backing band, but Williamson died not long after their meeting.
1965–67: with Bob Dylan
In late summer 1965, Bob Dylan was looking for a backup band for his first U.S. "electric" tour. Levon and the Hawks were recommended by blues singer John P. Hammond, who earlier that year had used Helm, Hudson and Robertson on his Vanguard album So Many Roads. Around the same time, one of their friends from Toronto was working as secretary to Dylan's manager Albert Grossman. Mary Martin told Dylan to visit the group at the Yonge Street club called the Le Coq d'Or Tavern—though Robbie Robertson recollects it was the Friar's Tavern, just down the street. Her advice to Dylan: "You gotta see these guys."
After hearing the band play and meeting with Robertson, Dylan invited Helm and Robertson to join his backing band. After two concerts backing Dylan, Helm and Robertson told Dylan of their loyalty to their bandmates, and told him that they would only continue with him if he hired all of the Hawks. Dylan accepted and invited Levon and the Hawks to tour with him. The group was receptive to the offer, knowing it could give them the wider exposure they craved. They thought of themselves as a tightly rehearsed rock and rhythm and blues group and knew Dylan mostly from his early acoustic folk and protest music. Furthermore, they had little inkling of how internationally popular Dylan had become.
With Dylan, The Hawks played a series of concerts from September 1965 through May 1966, billed as Bob Dylan and the Band. The tours were marked by Dylan's reportedly copious use of amphetamines. Some, though not all, of the Hawks joined in the excesses. Most of the concerts were met with the heckling and disapproval of folk music purists. Helm was so affected by the negative reception that he left the tour within three months and sat out the rest of that year's concerts, as well as the world tour in 1966. Helm spent much of this period working on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico.
During and between tours, Dylan and the Hawks attempted several recording sessions, but with less than satisfying results. Sessions in October and November yielded just one usable All Things Must Pass" was heavily influenced by The Band, and that while writing the song, he imagined Levon Helm singing it. Meanwhile, the Big Pink song "The Weight" has been covered numerous times, and in various musical styles. In a 1969 interview, Robbie Robertson remarked on the group's influence, "We certainly didn't want everybody to go out and get a banjo and a fiddle player. We were trying to calm things down a bit though. What we're going to do now is go to Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and record four sides, four psychedelic songs. Total freak-me songs. Just to show that we have no hard feelings. Just pretty good rock and roll."
In the nineties, a new generation of bands influenced by The Band began to gain popularity, including Counting Crows, the Wallflowers, and The Black Crowes. Counting Crows indicated this influence with their tribute to the late Richard Manuel, "If I Could Give All My Love (Richard Manuel Is Dead)" from their album Hard Candy. The Black Crowes frequently cover Band songs during live performances, such as "The Night They Drove Ol' Dixie Down", which appears on their DVD/CD Freak 'n' Roll into the Fog. They have also recorded at Helm's studio in Woodstock.
The inspiration for the classic rock-influenced band The Hold Steady came while members Craig Finn and Tad Kubler were watching The Last Waltz. Rick Danko and Robbie Robertson are namechecked in the lyrics of "The Swish" from The Hold Steady's 2004 debut album Almost Killed Me. Also that year, southern rock-revivalists Drive-By Truckers released the track "Danko/Manuel" on the album The Dirty South.
The Band also inspired Grace Potter, of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, to form the band in 2002. In an interview with The Montreal Gazette, Potter said, “The Band blew my mind. I thought if this is what Matt [Burr] meant when he said ‘Let’s start a rock ’n’ roll band,’ ... that was the kind of rock ’n’ roll band I could believe in.”
In January 2007, a tribute album, entitled Endless Highway: The Music of The Band, was released which included contributions by My Morning Jacket, Death Cab for Cutie, Gomez, Guster, Bruce Hornsby, Jack Johnson and ALO, Lee Ann Womack, The Allman Brothers Band, Blues Traveler, Jakob Dylan, and Rosanne Cash, amongst others.
Members of Wilco, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, The Shins, Dr Dog, Yellowbirds, Ween, Furthur, and other bands staged The Complete Last Waltz in 2012 and 2013. Their performances included all 41 songs from the original 1976 concert in sequence, even those edited out of the film. Musical director Sam Cohen of Yellowbirds claims “the movie is pretty ingrained in me. I’ve watched it probably 100 times.“
- According to Alan Livingston, who as president of EMI records first signed them in 1968, the group's manager at the time came up with the moniker after Livingston insisted that they give themselves a name.
- The booklet accompanying the The Original Mono Recordings re-issue of Blonde on Blonde lists Will Lee as the bass player (Marcus, Greil. Album notes for The Original Mono Recordings by Bob Dylan, 2010). Sean Wilentz insists that "the playing and talk on the Blonde on Blonde session tape show conclusively that Danko was the bassist on 'One of Us Must Know' (Wilentz, Sean. Bob Dylan in America, 2009, p. 113).
- The recording sessions for Beggars Banquet, however, wrapped up the same month that Music From Big Pink was released.
- "How the '60s group The Band got their name". YouTube. Retrieved 2014-04-24.
- "Canadian Music Hall of Fame: Past Inductees".
- "Inductee List". Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2008-12-28.
- "Lifetime Achievement Award". Grammy.com. Retrieved 2008-12-28.
- "The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". RollingStone.com. Retrieved 2007-06-02.
- "Book: "This Wheel's on Fire".". Retrieved 2007-01-30.
- "Andy Gill: Back to the Land". Theband.hiof.no. Retrieved 2009-01-21.
- Gray, 33 and 37
- Heylin, 173–174
- Gray, 292–293
- MacDonald, Bruce. "Part 2 (1960–1965): Clip 6" (Video). Yonge Street: Toronto Rock & Roll Stories. Toronto: Bravo Canada. Retrieved 2011-05-14.
- Hoskyns, 85–86
- Hoskyns, 94–97
- Hoskyns, 104
- Gray, 33
- Heylin, Clinton. Revolution in the Air: The Songs of Bob Dylan, 1957–73, 2009, pp. 285–286
- Sounes, 213–215
- "Review of Dylan/Hawks, 1966". Theband.hiof.no. 1971-06-03. Retrieved 2009-01-21.
- Unterberger, Richie (1966-05-17). "((( The Bootleg Series, Vol. 4: The "Royal Albert Hall" Concert > Overview )))". allmusic. Retrieved 2009-01-21.
- Sounes, 216–218
- "Big Pink Band To Tour U.S.".
- "TIME Magazine Cover: The Band – Jan. 12, 1970 – Rock – Singers – Music". Time.com. 1970-01-12. Retrieved 2009-01-21.
- – Review – Uncut.co.uk"Layla & Other Assorted..."Eric Clapton – Derek and The Dominos – . Uncut.co.uk. Retrieved 2009-01-21.
- Fricke, David, November 2001. The Last Waltz liner notes, 2002 CD re-issue, p. 17.
- Levon Helm and Stephen Davis. This Wheel's on Fire: Levon Helm and the Story of the Band, Chapter Nine: The Last Waltz
- Kiersh, Edward. Where Are You Now, Bo Diddley? The Artists Who Made Us Rock and Where They Are Now
- Pareles, Jon (6 March 1986). "RICHARD MANUEL, 40, ROCK SINGER AND PIANIST". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 April 2014.
- Dougherty, Steve (24 March 1986). "A Haunting Suicide Silences the Sweet, Soulful Voice of the Band's Richard Manuel". People. Retrieved 26 April 2014.
- Gray, Michael. The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia (Levon Helm entry), ISBN 0826429742
- "Induction into Rock HoF". Rockhall.com. Retrieved 2011-10-18.
- Selvin, Joel (2011-01-08). "The day the music lived / Rereleased 'Last Waltz' documents amazing night in 1976 when rock's royalty bid farewell to the Band – Page 2 of 2". The San Francisco Chronicle.
- "Levon Helm, singer and drummer for The Band, in final stages of cancer". LevonHelm.com. Retrieved April 18, 2012.
- Dawn LoBue (2006). "Levon Helm Biography". LevonHelm.com. Retrieved December 12, 2011.
- "Best Americana Album". Grammy.com. Retrieved December 9, 2011.
- Classic albums: The Band documentary, 1997
- Hoskyns, 189
- Barney Hoskyns – ''Across the Great Divide: The Band and America''. Retrieved 2011-10-18.
- Flanagan, Bill. "Rick Danko on The Band – New Albums, Old Wounds" Musician magazine #182, December 1993.
- "Greg Kot: `Waltz' bittersweet for many, but not Robbie Robertson". Theband.hiof.no. 2002-04-07. Retrieved 2014-04-24.
- "The Band's dispute plays on".
- Gray, 36–37
- Mick Wall (2008), When Giants Walked the Earth: A Biography Of Led Zeppelin, London: Orion, p. 181
- Hoskyns, 169
- Seaggs, Austin (February 17, 2011). "The Rolling Stone Interview: Elton John". Rolling Stone (1124): 36–68.
- "10 Goodbyes To Levon Helm". American Songwriter. Retrieved 2013-02-19.
- "Scott Spencer: Levon's Next Waltz". Theband.hiof.no. Retrieved 2011-07-06.
- Harris, John (2007-08-03). "There was a manic feeling in the air". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-12-28.
- "George Harrison: 'All Things' In Good Time". Billboard.com. Retrieved 2013-07-16.
- Gladstone, Howard. The Robbie Robertson Interview Rolling Stone #49, December 27, 1969
- "Soundtracks for The Black Crowes: Freak 'N' Roll... Into the Fog". The Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2009-12-06.
- Master, Dave. "Hold Steady returns hope to rock'n'roll: Daily Collegian exclusive interview with Craig Finn". The Daily Collegian.
- "Feature: Craig Finn". Cloak & Dagger Media.
- Perusse, Bernard. "Grace Potter on Ghostbusters, rock ’n’ roll and not wearing pants". The Montreal Gazette.
- """Members of Yellowbirds, Wilco, Dr Dog, Ween, CYHSY, Fruit Bats, Blitzen Trapper, Low Anthem, Superhuman Happiness, more to Perform The Band’s Entire "Last Waltz. The Future Heart. 2013-11-16. Retrieved 2014-04-24.
- Across the Great Divide: The Band and America by Barney Hoskyns (ISBN 1-56282-836-3)
- The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia by Michael Gray (ISBN 0-8264-6933-7)
- Invisible Republic: Bob Dylan's Basement Tapes by Greil Marcus (ISBN 0-8050-5842-7)
- This Wheel's on Fire by Levon Helm with Stephen Davis (ISBN 1-55652-405-6)
- "The Band" by Kevin J. Bochynski in Popular Musicians edited by Steve Hochman. (ISBN 0893569879) Salem Press: Pasadena, Calif., 1999. Pages 61–64.
- The Band at DMOZ
- The Band – A Musical History, official site from Capitol Records
- The Band discography at Discogs
- The Band at AllMusic
- The Band at the Internet Movie Database
- The Band at The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
The Band has influenced numerous bands, songwriters, and performers, from the Grateful Dead and The Beatles to Eric Clapton, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Led Zeppelin, Elvis Costello, Elton John, Phish, and Pink Floyd
Robertson is credited as writer or co-writer for the majority of The Band's songs, but sang lead vocals on only three of their studio recordings ("To Kingdom Come", "Knockin' Lost John", and "Out of the Blue"). This role, along with Robertson's resulting claim to the copyright of most of the compositions, would become a point of contention, especially as directed towards Robertson by Helm. In his 1993 autobiography This Wheel's on Fire – Levon Helm and the Story of The Band, Helm disputes the validity of the official songwriting credits as listed on the albums, and explains that The Band's songs were often honed and recorded through collaboration between all members. Danko concurred with Helm: "I think Levon's book hits the nail on the head about where Robbie and Albert Grossman and some of those people went wrong and when The Band stopped being The Band." ... "I'm truly friends with everybody but, hey—it could happen to Levon, too. When people take themselves too seriously and believe too much in their own bullshit, they usually get in trouble." Robertson for his part denied that Helm had written any of the songs attributed to Robertson and his daughter Alexandra later remarked in a letter to the Los Angeles Times that Helm's solo work consists almost entirely of songs written by others.
Every member, with the exception of Robertson, was a multi-instrumentalist. There was little instrument-switching when they played live, but when recording, the musicians could make up different configurations in service of the songs. Hudson in particular was able to coax a wide range of Tears of Rage", for example, it sounds like a mellotron. Helm's drumming was often praised: critic Jon Carroll declared that Helm was "the only drummer who can make you cry," while prolific session drummer Jim Keltner admits to appropriating several of Helm's techniques. Producer John Simon is often cited as a "sixth member" of the Band for producing and playing on Music from Big Pink, co-producing and playing on The Band, and playing on other songs up through the Band's 1993 reunion album Jericho.
The Band's music fused many elements: primarily old country music and early rock and roll, though the rhythm section often was reminiscent of Stax or Motown-style rhythm and blues, and Robertson cites Curtis Mayfield and the Staple Singers as major influences, resulting in a synthesis of many musical genres. As to the group's songwriting, very few of their early compositions were based on conventional blues and doo-wop chord changes. Singers Manuel, Danko, and Helm each brought a distinctive voice to The Band: Helm's Southern voice had more than a hint of country, Danko sang in a tenor, and Manuel alternated between falsetto and baritone. The singers regularly blended in harmonies. Though the singing was more or less evenly shared among the three men, both Danko and Helm have stated that they saw Manuel as the Band's "lead" singer.
Manuel had few projects outside of The Band; he and the rest of the Band contributed to Eric Clapton's 1976 album No Reason to Cry. It included an original composition by Manuel, and also featured his vocals and drumming on several tracks. Manuel later worked on several film scores with Hudson and Robertson, including Raging Bull and The Color of Money.
Hudson has released two acclaimed solo CDs, The Sea To The North in 2001, produced by Aaron (Professor Louie) Hurwitz and LIVE at the WOLF in 2005, both featuring his wife Maud on vocals. He has also kept busy as an in-demand studio musician. He is featured extensively on recordings of The Call and Country/Indie star Neko Case. Hudson contributed an original electronic score to an Off-Broadway production of Dragon Slayers, written by Stanley Keyes and directed by Brad Mays in 1986 at the Union Square Theatre in New York, which was re-staged with a new cast in Los Angeles in 1990. In 2010, Hudson released Garth Hudson Presents: A Canadian Celebration of The Band featuring Canadian artists covering songs that were recorded by The Band.
After he left The Band, Robbie Robertson became a music producer and wrote film soundtracks (including acting as music supervisor for several of Scorsese's films) before beginning a solo career with his Daniel Lanois-produced eponymous album in 1987.
In the late 70s and 80s, Helm released several solo albums and toured with a band called Levon Helm and the RCO Allstars. He also began an acting career with his role as Loretta Lynn's father in Coal Miner's Daughter. He also received praise for his narration and supporting role opposite Sam Shepard in 1983's The Right Stuff. Beginning sometime in the 1990s, Helm regularly performed Midnight Ramble concerts at his home and studio in Woodstock, New York, and toured. In 2007 Helm released a new album, an homage to his southern roots called Dirt Farmer, which was awarded a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Album on February 9, 2008. Electric Dirt followed in 2009 and won the inaugural Grammy Award for Best Americana Album. His 2011 live album Ramble at the Ryman was nominated in the same category and won.
In 1977, Rick Danko released his eponymous debut solo album, which featured the other four members of The Band on various tracks. In 1984, Danko joined members of the Byrds, the Flying Burrito Brothers, and others in the huge touring company that made up "The Byrds Twenty-Year Celebration". Several members of the band performed solo songs to start the show including Danko who performed "Mystery Train". Danko also released a number of additional solo albums in the 1990s, "In Concert", "Live On Breeze Hill" & "Times Like These".
Members' other endeavors
The final song the group recorded together was their 1999 cover of Bob Dylan's "One Too Many Mornings", which they contributed to the Dylan tribute album Tangled Up in Blues. On December 10, 1999, Rick Danko died in his sleep at the age of 56. Following his death, The Band broke up for good. In 2002, Robertson bought all other former members' financial interests in the group, with the exception of Helm, giving him major control of the presentation of the group's material, including latter-day compilations. Richard Bell died of multiple myeloma in June 2007. The Band received a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award on February 9, 2008, but there was no reunion of all three living members. In honor of the event, Helm held a Midnight Ramble in Woodstock. On April 17, 2012, it was announced via Helm's official website that he was in the "final stages of cancer"; he died two days later.
In 1994, The Band performed at Woodstock '94. Later that year Robertson appeared with Danko and Hudson as The Band for the second time since the original group broke up. The occasion was the induction of The Band into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Helm, who had been at odds with Robertson for years over accusations of stolen songwriting credits, did not attend. In February 1996, The Band with The Crickets recorded "Not Fade Away", released on the tribute album 'Not Fade Away (Remembering Buddy Holly). The Band released two more albums after Jericho: High on the Hog (1996) and Jubilation (1998), the latter of which included guest appearances by Eric Clapton and John Hiatt.
The Band appeared at Bob Dylan's 30th anniversary concert celebration in New York City in October 1992, where they performed their version of Dylan's "When I Paint My Masterpiece". In 1993, the group released their eighth studio album, Jericho. Without Robbie Robertson as primary lyricist, much of the songwriting for the album came from outside of the group. Also that year, The Band, along with Ronnie Hawkins, Bob Dylan, and other performers, appeared at US President Bill Clinton's 1993 "Blue Jean Bash" inauguration party.
1990–99: return to recording
The Band was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame at the 1989 Juno Awards, where Robertson was reunited with original members Danko and Hudson. With Canadian country rock superstars Blue Rodeo as a back-up band, Music Express called the 1989 Juno appearance a symbolic "passing of the torch" from The Band to Blue Rodeo.
After a performance in Florida on March 4, 1986, Richard Manuel committed suicide, aged 42, in his motel room. It was later revealed that he had suffered for many years from chronic alcoholism and drug addiction. According to Levon Helm's autobiography, in the later stages of his illness, Manuel was consuming eight bottles of Grand Marnier per day. Manuel's position as pianist was filled by old friend Stan Szelest (who died not long after), then by Richard Bell. Bell had played with Ronnie Hawkins after the departure of the original Hawks, and was best known from his days as a member of Janis Joplin's Full Tilt Boogie Band.
In 1983, The Band recommenced touring, though without Robertson. Several musicians, mostly from the group's Ronnie Hawkins days, were recruited as touring personnel to replace Robertson and to fill out the group. The reunited Band was generally well-received, but found themselves playing in smaller venues than during the peak of their popularity.
Levon Helm later wrote about The Last Waltz in his autobiography This Wheel's on Fire; in the book he makes the case that The Last Waltz was primarily Robbie Robertson's project, and that he had forced The Band's break-up onto the rest of the group. Robertson offered a different take in a 1986 interview: "I made my big statement. I did the movie, I made a three-record album about it—and if this is only my statement, not theirs, I'll accept that. They're saying, 'Well, that was really his trip, not our trip.' Well, fine. I'll take the best music film that's ever been made, and make it my statement. I don't have any problems with that. None at all."
In 1977, The Band released their seventh studio album Islands, which fulfilled their record contract with Capitol so that a planned Last Waltz film and album could be released on the Warner Bros. label. Islands contained a mix of originals and covers, and was the last with The Band's original lineup. That same year, the group recorded soundstage performances with country singer Emmylou Harris ("Evangeline") and gospel-soul group The Staple Singers ("The Weight"); Scorsese combined these new performances—as well as interviews he had conducted with the group—with the 1976 concert footage. The resulting concert film–documentary was released in 1978, along with a triple-LP soundtrack.
By 1976, Robbie Robertson was weary of touring. After having to cancel tour dates due to Richard Manuel suffering a severe neck injury in a boating accident in Texas, Robertson urged The Band to retire from touring, and conceived of a massive "farewell concert" known as The Last Waltz. The event was held, following an appearance on Saturday Night Live on October 30, on Thanksgiving Day of 1976 at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, California, and featured a horn section with arrangements by Allen Toussaint and a stellar list of guests, including other Canadian acts Joni Mitchell and Neil Young. Two of the guests were fundamental to The Band's existence and growth: Ronnie Hawkins and Bob Dylan. Other guests they admired (and in most cases had worked with before) included Muddy Waters, Dr. John, Van Morrison, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Ronnie Wood, Bobby Charles, Neil Diamond, and Paul Butterfield. The concert was recorded by Robertson's friend, filmmaker Martin Scorsese.
1976–78: The Last Waltz
During this time, The Band had brought in Planet Waves producer Rob Fraboni to help design a music studio for the group to record in. By 1975, the studio—known as Shangri-La—was completed. That year, The Band recorded and released Northern Lights – Southern Cross, their first album of all-new material since 1971's Cahoots. All eight songs were written exclusively by Robertson. Despite poor record sales, the album is favored by critics and fans alike. Levon Helm regards this album highly in his book, This Wheel's on Fire: "It was the best album we had done since The Band." The album also produced more experimentation from Hudson switching to synthesizers, heavily showcased on "Jupiter Hollow".
In 1973, The Band released Moondog Matinee, an album of cover songs. There was no tour in support of the album, which garnered mixed reviews. However on July 28, 1973, they played at the legendary Summer Jam at Watkins Glen, a massive concert which took place at the Grand Prix Raceway outside of Watkins Glen, New York. The event, which was attended by over 600,000 music fans, also featured the Grateful Dead and The Allman Brothers Band. It was during this event that discussions began about a possible tour with Bob Dylan, who had —along with Robertson—moved to Malibu, California. By late 1973, Danko, Helm, Hudson and Manuel had joined them, and the first order of business was backing Dylan on the album Planet Waves. The album was released concurrently with their joint 1974 tour, in which they played 40 shows in North America during January and February 1974. Later that year, the live album Before the Flood was released, which documents the tour.
1973–75: move to Shangri-La
In late December 1971, The Band recorded the live album Rock of Ages, which was released in the summer of 1972. On Rock of Ages, they were bolstered by the addition of a horn section, with arrangements written by Toussaint. Bob Dylan appeared on stage on New Year's Eve and performed four songs with the group, including a version of "When I Paint My Masterpiece".
Despite mounting problems between the musicians, the Band forged ahead with their next album, Cahoots (1971). Cahoots included tunes such as Bob Dylan's "When I Paint My Masterpiece," "4% Pantomime" (with Van Morrison), and "Life Is a Carnival," the last featuring a horn arrangement from Allen Toussaint. Toussaint's contribution was a critical addition to the Band's next project, and the group would later record two songs written by Toussaint: "Holy Cow" (on Moondog Matinee) and "You See Me" (on Jubilation).
At about this time, Robertson began exerting greater control over the Band, a point of antipathy, especially between Helm and Robertson. Helm charges Robertson with authoritarianism and greed, while Robertson suggests his increased efforts in guiding the group were due largely to some of the other members being unreliable. In particular, Robertson insists he did his best to coax Manuel into writing or co-writing more songs, only to see Manuel's talents overtaken by addiction.
After recording Stage Fright, the Band was among the acts participating in the Festival Express, an all-star rock concert tour of Canada by train that also included Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead and future Band member Richard Bell (at the time he was a member of Joplin's band). In the concert documentary film, released in 2003, Danko can be seen intoxicated participating in a drunken jam session with Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir and Joplin while singing "Ain't No More Cane".
Following their second album, the Band embarked on their first tour as a headlining act. The resulting anxiety from fame and its hang-ups was especially evidenced by the group as its songs turned to darker themes of fear and alienation: the influence on their next work is self-explanatory. Stage Fright (1970) was engineered by musician/engineer/producer Todd Rundgren and recorded on a theatre stage in Woodstock, New York, but the fraying of the group's once-fabled unity was beginning to show. As was the case with their previous, self-titled record, Robertson is credited with the majority of the songwriting. However, the trademark vocal style of the Band's three lead singers was much less prominent on this work.
, along with works by The Band A critical and commercial triumph,
Rolling Stone lavished praise on the Band in this era, giving them more attention than perhaps any other group in the magazine's history; Greil Marcus' articles in particular contributed greatly to the Band's mystique. The Band was also featured on the cover of Time's January 12, 1970 issue.
These first two records were produced by John Simon, who was practically a group member: he aided in arrangements and played occasional instruments (piano or tuba). Simon reported that he was often asked about the distinctive horn sections featured so effectively on the first two albums: people wanted to know how they had achieved such memorable sounds. Simon stated that, besides Hudson (an accomplished saxophonist), the others had only rudimentary horn skills, and achieved their sound simply by creatively utilizing their limited technique.
After the success of Music from Big Pink, the band went on tour. Their first live appearance was at Stony Brook University in the spring of 1969 several weeks preceding a performance at the Woodstock Festival (which was not included in the famed Woodstock film due to legal complications) and an appearance with Dylan at the UK Isle of Wight Festival (several songs from which were subsequently included on Dylan's Self Portrait album). That same year, they left for Los Angeles to record their follow-up, The Band (1969). From their deliberately rustic appearance on the cover, to the songs and arrangements within, the album stood in contrast to other popular music of the day. Although it should be noted that, by this point, several acts, notably Dylan on John Wesley Harding (written during The Basement Tapes sessions) and The Byrds on Sweetheart of the Rodeo (featuring two Basement Tapes covers), had made similar stylistic moves. The Band featured songs that evoked oldtime rural America, from the Civil War in "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" to unionization of farm workers in "King Harvest (Has Surely Come)".
Their first album, Music from Big Pink (1968) was widely acclaimed. The album included three songs written or co-written by Dylan ("This Wheel's on Fire", "Tears of Rage", and "I Shall Be Released") as well as "The Weight", the use of which in the film Easy Rider would make it probably their best known song. While a continuity certainly ran through the music, there were stylistic leanings in a number of directions. In contrast to his wild guitar playing with Hawkins and Dylan, Robertson opted for a more subdued, riff-oriented approach, often mixed low down in the song.
The sessions with Dylan ended in October 1967, with Helm having rejoined the group by that time. The Hawks then began writing their own songs in a rented large pink house, which they affectionately named "Big Pink", in West Saugerties (near Woodstock). When they went into the recording studio, they still did not have a name for themselves. Stories vary as to the manner in which they ultimately adopted the name "The Band." In The Last Waltz, Manuel claimed that they wanted to call themselves either "The Honkies" or "The Crackers" (which they used when backing Dylan for a January 1968 concert tribute to Woody Guthrie), but these names were vetoed by their record label; Robertson suggests that during their time with Dylan everyone just referred to them as "the band" and it stuck. Initially, they disliked the moniker, but eventually grew to like it, thinking it both humble and presumptuous. In 1969, Rolling Stone referred to them as "The band from Big Pink."
1968–1972: initial success
On July 29, 1966, while on a break from touring, Dylan was injured in a motorcycle accident, and retired into semi-seclusion in Woodstock, New York. For a while, the Hawks returned to the bar and roadhouse touring circuit, sometimes backing other singers (including a brief stint with Tiny Tim). Dylan invited the Hawks to join him in Woodstock in the summer of 1967, where (minus the still-absent Helm) they recorded a much-bootlegged and influential series of demos, some of which were subsequently released on LP as The Basement Tapes. A track-by-track review of the bootleg was detailed by Jann Wenner in Rolling Stone; where the band members were explicitly named as well as giving a collective name of "The Crackers".
The Manchester performance was widely bootlegged (and mistakenly placed at the Royal Albert Hall). The recording of this gig became one of the most famous of Dylan's career. A 1971 review from Creem stated "My response is that crystallization of everything that is rock'n'roll music, at its finest, was to allow my jaw to drop, my body to move, to leap out of the chair ... It is an experience that one desires simply to share, to play over and over again for those he knows thirst for such pleasure. If I speak in an almost worshipful sense about this music, it is not because I have lost perspective, it is precisely because I have found it, within music, yes, that was made five years ago. But it is there and unignorable." When it finally saw official release in 1998, critic Richie Unterberger declared the record "an important document of rock history."
During the European leg of their 1966 tour, Mickey Jones replaced Sandy Konikoff on drums. (Levon Helm had departed in October 1965, depressed by the booing which greeted their live performances.) Dylan and the Hawks played at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester on May 17, 1966. The gig became legendary when, near the end of Dylan's electric set, an audience member shouted "Judas!". After a pause, Dylan replied, "I don't believe you. You're a liar!" He then turned to the Hawks and said "Play it fucking loud!" With that, they launched into an acidic version of "Like a Rolling Stone".
", but the other members of the Hawks did not attend the sessions. Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat recordings, especially "Blonde on Blonde and moved the recording sessions to Nashville. In Nashville, Robertson's guitar was prominent on the Bob Johnston Frustrated by the slow progress in the New York studio, Dylan accepted the suggestion of producer