My favorite music group?

For bits and pieces of my life, I’ll favor one music group over all the others.  This position was held by Janis Joplin, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Joni Mitchell, The Doors, The Mommas & the Papas, Meatloaf, Beach Boys and most recently, The Band.  Coming on strong now are The Kinks.

During the course of my obsessions, I’d listen to the group’s music and all and everything on-line about them: live performances, Wiki-stuff, biographies, etc.

For sometime now, I’ve been focused on the Canadian-American group called simply, The Band.  If their work is unfamiliar to you, I am jealous.  I would love to switch places and hear them for the first time.

Some back story: a rockabilly group named Ronnie Hawkins & the Hawks toured Canada and found some seriously talented musicians: Robbie Robertson, Richard Manual, Rick Danko and Garth Hudson.  Traveling with him was American drummer, Levon Helm.  After putting down some serious road time, Robertson, Manual, Danko, Hudson and Helm decided to break free from Hawkins and let him tour in Canada alone where he was a big enough deal.

Calling themselves Levon & the Hawks and The Canadian Squires, they slowed buildt up respect and fame within the rock world.  They also caught lightening in a bottle when they became Bob Dylan’s backup band.  Dylan was planning to drop folk music and start a rock career.  He needed a talented backup group.  This career change came with stiff resistance from the “folk” world.  Bob Dylan and the Band were booed mercilessly at concerts in America and even worse overseas.  The trauma of performing under hostile conditions caused Dylan to stay off the stage for years even after recovering from a motorcycle accident.  Levon Helm quit and went to work on an oil rig.  He would later return to the fold.

The Band moved to Saggerites, New York bordering Dylan’s home in Woodstock, NY.  It was at this home/studio where The Band and Dylan created new and inventive music.  They’d jam for monster hours producing several classic hits guided by Bob Dylan’s genius.

The rest is rock history.  Watershed moments for The Band include playing at Woodstock ’69 and creating the quintessential rockumentary, The Last Waltz.

The Band broke up after Robbie Robertson announced he would no longer tour.

I would like to report that all went well for the five minstrels after their split, but I can’t.  They became factionalized with a lot of the usual back-biting about money and credits.

After awhile, The Band started touring again without Robertson.  They now played at smaller, yet still magical venues.  Robertson became a music directors for films.

Following a long history of drug abuse, Richard Manual committed suicide.  He had suffered enough for one lifetime.  The Band’s signature song, The Weight echoes bits of Manual’s struggles in its lyrics.

Although shaken by the loss of their talented mate, Danko, Hudson and Helm kept the music going until Rick Danko passed in his sleep.  Helm was running the show at the time and decreed there can be no “The Band” without Manual and Danko.

Levon Helm continued to have a full bodied career and elevated the Southern rock genre.  The music community and legions of fans lionized him.

Cancer struck Helm and took his singing voice. He performed until it returned.  This man with an indomitable spirit also died leaving Garth Brooks and Robbie Robertson behind.  If we are to learn more about The Band, it will come from these two.

In a display of brotherly love, Levon Helm and Rick Danko are buried side-by-side in Woodstock, NY.

The gifts given by The Band exceeds their music.  They led lives most men would choose, if they had more nerve.

Okay and a whole lot more musical talent.


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