The Band was part of the background music of my life for a while, but at the time I couldn’t have distinguished one musician from another. I wasn’t really paying attention until Robbie Robertson released his first solo album, Robbie Robertson, in 1987. Loved it the first time I heard the first track; love it still–especially the mesmerizing “Somewhere Down the Crazy River.”
Much later I came to appreciate Rick Danko. His voice is the one in my head when I think of The Band. Danko recorded this beautiful acoustic version of “When You Awake” in 2009. It seems even more moving and powerful than The Band’s version.
One of the songs Levon Helm is best known for is “The Weight.” There are a lot of versions of this song, but this one from the documentary The Last Waltz is so good.
Van the man
The Last Waltz has been called the best music documentary ever by some critics. I haven’t seen them all, but it’s definitely my favorite. All the music is fantastic, but the performance that tops the rest is Van Morrison doing “Caravan.” It’s worth watching the whole thing just to get to those five or six minutes. It’s too bad there’s no video available, but this audio gives a sense of the electricity in the auditorium. Turn it up! Little bit louder. Radio!
And then, of course, when we did “Caravan,” which was something that we really just wanted to play together, and I wanted to play some guitar on, and we wanted to do that. And we did this. And we had the horn section and the whole thing, and the way the song built and it built and it built. All of a sudden, at the end, when Van starts kicking his leg up in the air, we were like, “What’s happening here? This is the most wonderful out of control I’ve ever seen him.” And it was just magical, you know, just that whole song, and the performance of that. When we were finished playing that song, when I turned around, you know, to the other guys in the band, and I was like, “Okay,” you know? We were just feeling so good at that moment.
— Robbie Robertson, VH-1 interview on the making of The Last Waltz.