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Pete Lawrence - 11 Oct 2016


Lyrically, The Band effortlessly tapped into the vast open spaces of rural north America, but it was no false idyll.

Forty years after they staged their dramatic farewell concert - subsequently made into a celebrated Martin Scorsese film 'The Last Waltz - The Band are now arguably more relevant and more important than at any time in their long illustrious history which started in the late 50s.

To quote Wikipedia, The Band was a Canadian-American roots rock group, originally consisting of Rick Danko (bass guitar, double bass, fiddle, vocals), Levon Helm (drums, mandolin, guitar, vocals), Garth Hudson (keyboards, saxophones, trumpet),Richard Manuel (piano, drums, vocals) and Robbie Robertson (guitar, percussion, 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.

The Band

Lyrically, The Band effortlessly tapped into the vast open spaces of rural north America, but it was no false idyll.

On tracks such as 'King Harvest Will Surely Come' the strife of the farmer is at the forefront. It is delivered in the from the point of view of a poverty-stricken farmer who, with increasing desperation, details the misfortune which has befallen him: there was no rain and his crops died, his barn burned down, he has ended up on skid row. A labour unionorganizer appears, promising to improve things, and the narrator tells his new associates, "I'm a union man, now, all the way", but, perhaps ashamed of his station, begs them to "just don't judge me by my shoes." The events depicted in the song are most likely a reference to the organizing drives of the Trade Union Unity League which created share-cropper unions from 1928 to 1935, throughout the U.S. South.

The rock critic Greil Marcus called it "The Band's song of blasted country hopes" and suggested that 'King Harvest' might be Robertson's finest song and the best example of the group's approach to songwriting and performing.

'The Band', the eponymous second album (1969) has been viewed as a concept album, with the songs focusing on peoples, places and traditions associated with an older version of Americana. The lyrics of 'The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down' tell of the last days of the American Civil War and the suffering of Southerners.

The writing from all members of The Band displayed a maturity way beyond their years and the subject matter remains historic and timeless, trancending fashion but curiously elevating the band's image to one of considerable influence in the second decade of the new millennium.

And then there was the music...

Recommended albums :

1 The Band

2 Stage Fright

3 Music From Big Pink

4 Cahoots

5 Northern Lights Southern Cross


"All La Glory"

I wanna hear pitter patter
Climb up your ladder now
It's time for you to dream away,
For what a big day you've been through.
You've done all the things that you wanted to do.
All la glory, I'm second story,
Feel so tall like a prison wall.

I'm lookin' for a star bright
To shine down your light now
And keep the little one safe and warm,
'Cause to her it's just a fantasy
And to me it's all a mystery.
All la glory, I'm second story,
Feel so tall like a prison wall.

And before the leaves all turn brown,
Before they fall to the ground,
You will find the harmony,
Wait and see.

Listen to the serenade,
Little girl, promenade now.
You've got the sunshine in your hand
And maybe come some sweet day
You'll walk that Milky Way.
All la glory, I'm second story,
Feel so tall like a prison wall,

That tall.



Pete Lawrence

I'm currently building a Project about The Band - articles, links, videos, playlists and such.. in draft form at the moment but drop me a line if you'd like to be a collaborator...


Richard Page

Needless to say I love The Band, my favourite song of theirs being Acadian Driftwood, the story of the journey of the folks living in the French colony of Acadie who pushed out by the British at the end of the 18th century made their way south with some ending up in Lousiana where their descendents still live, today's Cajuns. There's a great long involved article on the song here which is worth a read.

Of course, there will have to be a section on their work with Dylan - my favourite of which is a great live version of I Shall Be Released with Richard Manuel and Dylan singing it together. There's a great song about justice.


Mark Drury

Excellent piece! x


Pete Lawrence

@Richard-Page Yes, I too love Arcadian Driftwood and you'll notice that it's in the playlist too. Rick Danko's fiddle on the track is just divine. In fact I may just play it again now! I've just invited you to the Project, btw

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