The Band (1967-1977)
Robbie Robertson (guitar)
Levon Helm (drums, vocals)
Richard Manuel (piano, vocals)
Rick Danko (bass, vocals)
Garth Hudson (organ)
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Their vocals were often 3-part harmonies with Helm, Manuel, and Danko.
They rented a big, pink house in upstate New York, where they recorded their first album, Music From Big Pink.
Robertson, Danko, Manuel, and Hudson are Canadian. Robertson is Canadian by birth, but his heritage is half-Jewish and half-American Indian.
They were playing clubs as The Hawks when Bob Dylan
asked them to be his backup band on his first electric tour. They were often booed by audiences who felt Dylan had sold out his folk fans.
Robertson is an executive with Dreamworks. He used to be Martin Scorsese's roommate.
Their second album, The Band, was recorded at Sammy Davis Jr.'s house, which they had rented.
Dylan's manager, Albert Grossman, suggested they use the name The Band when they recorded on their own to play up their anonymity.
Woodstock was a bad experience for The Band, who were the only local act - they lived nearby and had to contend with tourists for the next few years. They were paid more for their performance then many other artists, including Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, The Grateful Dead, and The Who. They played the last night and left right after their set.
Songwriting credits and royalty payments were a contentious issue for The Band. Robertson was listed as the composer on most of the songs, even though the others helped write them. As a result, Robertson continues to get most of the royalties from the songs.
They played the Watkins Glen Festival on July 28, 1973 along with The Allman Brothers and The Grateful Dead. With over 600,000 people, it was the largest US concert ever.
The Band performed their last concert on November 24, 1976 at Winterland in San Francisco. In 1978, the movie The Last Waltz, about this concert, was released. November 24 was the same day Eric Clapton had played Cream's farewell concert in 1968. It was partially because of The Band's music that Clapton decided to leave Cream. (thanks, James - Tracy, CA)
Levon Helm inspired the name for the title character in Elton John's "Levon
They are a huge influence on Eric Clapton, who was in Cream when Music From Big Pink came out. Clapton formed Blind Faith with the idea of making music with more direction and fewer extended solos, which were the trademark of Cream. The Band played on his albums No Reason To Cry (1976) and August (1986). (thanks, Joey - Athens, GA)
Regarding their split, Robertson said (in Q magazine): "I was responsible for the break up of The Band. But did I do it on a whim? I don't think so! Drugs and alcohol were the real destruction of The Band – but that's always underplayed."
When they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, only three members were there. Levon Helm chose not to attend and Richard Manuel had died. When they played, Eric Clapton joined them to fill in the sound.
In 1969, these guys became the first Canadian band to appear on the cover of Time magazine. They were heralded as "The first to match the excellence of the Beatles."
Helm has gone on to an acting career. He played Loretta Lynn's father in Coal Miner's Daughter and appeared in The Right Stuff.
Levon Helm and Garth Hudson played drums and Hammond organ on Norah Jones' song "What Am I To You." (thanks, Lee - Mobile, AL)
Plagued by drug and alcohol problems, Manual hanged himself after a show in Florida in 1986.
Levon Helm was honored in Woodstock, New York, as the town saluted him by making May 20th, 2006 "Levon Helm Day." Helm has lived there since the '60s, and he got the key to the city as part of the honor.
Helm and his band do a regular monthly gig called a "Midnight Ramble" at his barn, which is also a recording studio. The shows often attract special guests, and Elvis Costello and Steely Dan singer-keyboardist Donald Fagen have made appearances. (thanks, Stevie Lee - radio personality @ 1077 WSFR - Louisville, KY, for above 2)
Robertson has contributed songs or worked as a music consultant on many movies, including The Departed, Gangs Of New York, Any Given Sunday and The Color Of Money. (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
Bob was the bass player and lyricist for the first two Ozzy Osbourne albums. Here's how he wrote songs like "Crazy Train" and "Mr. Crowley" with Ozzy and Randy Rhoads.
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The only Irishman to play at Woodstock (backing Joe Cocker), Henry was an early member of Paul McCartney's band Wings.