"The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down".


I am very fortunate in having heard this amazing song performed live by The Band on their tour in support of the s/t "brown" album. The only other live music experience I’ve had that equals it was hearing Little Village perform John Hiatt’s "Lipstick Traces" on a soundstage in Burbank in ’92. The Little Village album was not so hot, but they sure were!

The Beatles? Saw them in ’65. Hendrix? Saw him in ’68 and ’69. Cream? Saw them in ’67 and ’68. The Who? Saw them in ’68 and ’69. Who else ya wanna name? Sorry, hearing The Band live spoiled me for just about EVERYONE else. Not Iris DeMent, whom I just saw this past Thursday. Stunningly great!


Here’s J.R. Robertson, Eric Levon Helm, and some other guy talking about the song and its’ creation:







Different strokes... We all feel passionate about different types of music, and that’s part of the beauty of it all.

Oops, "Lipstick Sunset".

@roxy54: Absolutely, you’ll get no argument from me on that point. When I said The Band spoiled me for just about everyone else, the "me" was intentional. I don’t think one should assume that statement implies I think everyone should feel the same. Is it alright if I state that opinion? Is it alright if one listener says he prefers a Wilson speaker over a Vandersteen, or visa versa? Everything a person says is a personal opinion.

What’s interesting is that of the musicians I’ve known or just met, the "better" he or she is (again, a subjective determination), the more he or she loves The Band. Coincidence? No, it’s mutual tastes in music. Lots of people like the music of Mozart, yet Glenn Gould famously did not. J.S. Bach spoiled him for just about all other composers.😉 For I as well.

The old phrase "The best is the enemy of the good" comes to mind.


The Brown Album is a top 10 favorite of mine and "Lipstick Sunset" one of my favorite tracks off "Bring the Family". It's too bad that same group didn't click when they went into the studio to record "Slow Turning". Can you imagine how Cooder and company might've handled the likes of "Icy Blue Heart", "Paper Thin" or "Feels Like Rain" ?  

We diverge a bit when it come to TNTDODD. I've simply heard that song over the airwaves too many times to enjoy it, now. In fact, Classic Rock radio has ruined quite a few songs for me, but I digress. TNTDODD seems to be the one song that people who know nothing about the Band recognize --  the equivalent to R. Thompson's "1952 Vincent Black Lightning".

At this point, I could happily live without ever hearing either song again but this is a minor quibble. 

Perhaps I haven't delved into their repertoire deep enough, but I never understood all the hub bub and accolades for The Band. Really don't get what's so special about their songs.


As you can see from what I said, I have no problem with anyone's opinions or taste in music.

@thecarpathian  *1

Criticism is an attempt to just find another invented issue to signal your virtue over.  Insincere statements of foregiveness for your musical tastes are just the second level of gaslighting.


I saw Miles Davis on David Sanborn's TV show Sunday Night Music on NBC. This was near the end of Miles's life. The backing band was The Red Hot Chili Peppers! I kid you not! How the mighty have fallen!

Going way back I saw Jimi Hendrix on the David Frost TV show (Summer of ’69?). This was at my high school friend's house where we watched on a black-and-white TV, along with his father. That same July I was there watching along with my friend and his dad as Neil Armstrong stepped foot on the Moon! Kids today have no idea what they missed!

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One more blast from the past: I remember seeing the Jefferson Airplane on Ed Sullivan doing Lather and Crown of Creation. Grace Slick sang both songs wearing black face makeup! My parents were in the room watching too, this time on a color TV.

My favorite from the Band is The Weight. Put the weight right on me. A father's lament.  Greg 

@gjohns ,

I really don't think it has anything to do with a father's lament, but you are certainly free to interpret it as you like...

@gjohns: Mine too. "The Weight" is in my top 5 or so songs of all-time. One of Robertson's best songs was at the other end of their career: "It Makes No Difference", sung by bassist Rick Danko.

The controversy about TNTDODD is in its' view of the Civil War from the perspective of a Southerner. You would know that if you actually watched the linked video!

If you guys don't know what I'm talking about (and I really doubt that) then the world is a better place.


@stuartk: Your comments about Hiatt’s Slow Turning album ("It’s too bad that same group didn’t click when they went into the studio to record Slow Turning") seems to imply that it---like Bring The Family---was recorded with Ry Cooder, Nick Lowe, and Jim Keltner as the backing band. But I think you know that was not the case.

I know how you feel about the Slow Turning album, as that was also my initial reaction to it: mild disappointment. I have however grown to love it, starting when I saw John and the players on the album perform it live at The Roxy Theater on Sunset Blvd. While no one compares to Cooder on slide guitar, Sonny Landreth is no slouch! Sonny’s later solo albums contain fine music as well

I also saw Hiatt and his band perform the Perfectly Good Guitar album, and it too was fantastic. The problem with creating an album as good as Bring The Family is, how do you follow it up? Everything else you do will be compared to it.


I was so weird that I couldn't figure out who it was aimed at. His follow up post did nothing to clarify that.

In 1971, or ‘72 I was sitting at a bench at Sproul Plaza, which is an area in front of the U.C. Berkeley administration building, when Joan Baez walked up and performed on the steps of the administration building. Few were there at first, but I remember her rendition of The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down. Acoustic guitar and solo voice at ten feet.. Those were the days.

@vonhelmholtz: I respect the Hell out of Joan Baez. But she became the object of derision amongst myself and my peers when she sang "till so much calvary came" instead of the correct "till Stoneman’s calvary came" in "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down". Come on Joan, if we could hear it surely you should be able to!



The Band…..self titled. I’m hard pressed to recall another album capable of  transporting me so deeply into another mind space.

”Last night, ain’t no joke…my whole barn went up in smoke..” King Harvest.

Richard Manuel’s vocals on Whispering Pines. One of the most heartfelt performances on record.

On a Sunday afternoon it will take you away.

Just listened to the Brown Album and Stage Fright yesterday in memory of Robbie. I can still remember listening to Big Pink for the first time when it was initially released and thinking that I had never heard anything like it in my life. The Weight, Chest Fever, Crippled Creek and on and on are all timeless. 

laid the groundwork for some of my favorite bands many years later like Uncle Tupelo and the Jayhawks.

As far as John Hiatt’s Slow Turning love the album. Waiting and hoping someone would release a proper remaster on an LP.

'TNTDODD' comes off as what it is, an old southern lament over the unCivil war...

Living here in the south, one still runs into those who still have something anchored in the past that just needed to be left behind....mho, >$.02 (inc. inflation) 🤨

...prefer to miss this...RIP, Rob...😔

@rettrussell: A beautiful post, thank you. Eric Clapton also holds Richard Manuel in very high regard. His death (okay, suicide) is the only one of a musician that brought me to tears.

@relayer101: I myself found Music From Big Pink to be unfathomable for a year after its' release in 1968. It wasn't until the next year that I heard my first really good ensemble-style band (New Buffalo, a quarter lead by Buffalo Springfield drummer Dewey Martin, with Bobby's brother Randy Fuller on bass and harmony vocals) that I "got" that style of music. It changed everything. I view the history of Rock 'n' Roll in terms of BTB (before The Band) and ATB (after). Not to be sacrilegious, but like B.C. and A.D.

I much prefer "Acadian Driftwood" as a song and instrumental/vocal performance.  Everybody has an opinion...

Not to hijack this post (I absolutely Love that Band)  I'm speaking on the term of opinions.  I was at a summer outdoor part at a friends house, and my Friends friend said Duran Duran was better than Led Zeppelin!  Honest to God!!  I know that is one's opinion (he was 44 years old as well)  I got up and walked away, I didn't even reply. 

I bought and enjoyed the Brown album when it came out. My appreciation for MFBP came decades later!


Well, you can get up and walk away again, because I think that Duran Duran has produced an amazing number of memorable songs, and I also prefer them to Led Zeppelin. I like Led Zeppelin as well, but they had quite a few clunkers mixed in with the good. 

As far as better or worse, I don't like to look at it that way. It's not a contest.

OMG, I detest Duran Duran. But I love the debut album by ABC (The Lexicon Of Love), who plowed basically the same field as DD.

I find it kind of amusing how Robert Plant is now involved in music somewhat related to The Band’s kind of music. Why amusing? Because during the time Led Zeppelin were taking over the world of Rock ’n’ Roll, The Band were viewed as an antidote to Led Zeppelin and their ilk.

I can’t speak for any of LZ’s other members, but Plant has long been a fan of Rockabilly, Jump Blues, and other strains of Roots Rock music. He and Dave Edmunds are close friends, and Plant personally signed Edmunds to his Swan Song Records contract. If you haven’t heard Dave’s 1970’s-80’s Swan Song albums, you are in for a treat when you do. Start with Get It, his debut on the label (he has two precious albums on other labels, also fantastic).

Just heard yesterday on Sirius / XM a liver version of “ Don’t Do It”  -outstanding!

The re -mastered  2nd “brown album” on Qobuz is also excellent!  It’s a simple & very good recording with the real tone & power of Levon Helm’s drum kit shining through & really nice layered background vocals especially on “ Up on Cripple Creek ”. 

I don’t think to really appreciate the Band, you need a system that has a full bottom end & can play pretty loud. As with many bands, the bass guitar & drums drive the music & this is especially true w/ Rick Danko & Levon.  What a uniquely talented group of artists! 

@jonwolfpell: Yeah, that live recording of "Don’t Do It"---which is the opening track on The Band’s double live album Rock Of Ages---is killer. There’s a studio recording of the song, but it appeared only as the B-side of the "Rag Mama Rag" 45 RPM single.

The song was written by the famous Motown team of Holland/Dozier/Holland, and originally recorded by Marvin Gaye. Prior to hooking up with Dylan, The Hawks were more of an R & B bar band than anything else. It was only during their year (all of 1967, except for Levon, who had quit the Dylan World Tour in late-’65. He went to the Gulf and worked on an oil rig!) in the basement of Big Pink---being tutored by Dylan in all American musical styles---that The Hawks evolved into The Band.

Pianist Richard Manuel did most of the drumming heard on the Basement Tapes recordings, and on about half the songs on the s/t brown album. His drumming style is very hip, and full of intentional, sly humour. Levon was enticed back when bassist Rick Danko called him and said Capitol Records had offered them a million bucks to make an album. By then Levon was in Los Angeles, hanging with Leon Russell, Jesse Ed Davis, and the rest of the Tulsa crowd. Levon was giving drum lessons to the guy who ended up drumming in Linda Ronstadt’s original band.

"Lexicon Of Love" is one of the all-time great pop recordings!  I lump Duran Duran with INXS.  Both had their own sound and wrote catchy tunes, well performed.  Neither were great, but they could be quite enjoyable.

It's all about what we listened to when we were young. I'm going through a divorce right now. Last Saturday, I went down to Godfrey Daniels coffeehouse that I used to frequent when I was young. MANY of my friends were there whom I haven't seen in years. It was great! $27.00 at the door however! No more $5.00 Saturday nights. I had a blast. four of my top favorite artists I discovered at Godfrey's. Long live folk music!

If you give consideration to live performances or albums, give a listen to The Band’s “Rock Of Ages”. Recorded years before “The Last Waltz” on the cusp of 1972 in Brooklyn. Horn section added for the performances gave them a whole new element. The song “King Harvest” is one of the best songs I ever heard written about The Depression.

I had the good fortune of seeing the Band twice. Once during the Last Waltz tour at the Spectrum In Philadelphia and again in Oct. 1983 at the Brandywine Club in Chadds Ford, PA. The difference between the two shows couldn’t have been more apparent. While they sounded great at the Spectrum in a big venue just a few months before The Last Waltz concert in SF, I was amazed to find how relatively small and intimate the Brandywine Club was. Seats were unreserved and we found ourselves roughly 25 feet away from the Band. Robbie was no longer touring with them but because he contributed very little in terms of vocals they sounded fantastic! I so wish I had brought my camera because it was a memorable night. 40 years later, the Brandywine Club is gone as are all the Band members save Garth. But the memories remain.

@baconboy: Robbie’s replacement on guitar in the reformed Band was Jim Weider, who imo is actually a better guitarist than was Robbie. I know, sacrilege! Plus, Jim didn’t pretend to sing as did Robbie all throughout The Last Waltz. When Levon, Richard, and Rick were singing those 3-part harmonies, what was Robbie singing? Nothing, he was "mouthing" the words. Do you hear Robbie’s vocal parts? No, because there aren’t any. Embarrassing.

What, being the guitarist and main songwriter in The Band wasn’t enough for him? And then his pal Martin Scorsese gave Robertson far more screen time in The Last Waltz than he did any other member. Again, embarrassing. As was Neil Diamond’s performance. It was Van Morrison who stole the show. He had a few years earlier duetted with Richard on the Cahoots album song "4% Pantomime".

@therandyman: One cool thing about the video is that when Robbie is performing the song on piano, you can better hear the song's great chord progressions, and the sophisticated voicing of the chords. Majestic!

........at the expense of sounding disrespectful at this time so close to Robbie Robertson's passing ; I still have a tough time thinking about how Robbie maneuvered all of the copyright / royalties to himself. It was well known that when this was being done the rest of the Band members where having a great time of it and Robbie felt that he needed to take control of the business portion of the Band. I can understand somebody doing that if the rest of the members were out of control and he felt he needed to step in. However, from what I read he took all of the music copyrights and placed it under his name or control. The rest of the Band suffered some financial hardships as a result of this change in the ownership and copyrights of their own music. Now, if someone else here knows more on this or if I am wrong ( which I do not think that I am ) please let me know. 

I still recall hearing the Band's Brown album for the first time as I was a junior in High School and it was the 70's .......I initially didn't like it or even better yet ; I didn't understand it. It was many years when I went back to listen to the Band's music and I was older and much more mature, I finally got it. They were really were a great Band with a sound that has never really to this day been duplicated. RIP Robby and thank you for some great memories.....       

@garebear: Your understanding of the royalty question is mine as well. I think Robbie’s comment of "I did what I had to do" is very revealing of the nature of his related actions.

Band producer John Simon (he did their first two albums) has told the story of how he himself was tricked out of future royalties by Robertson and Capitol Records. Robertson approached Simon about working on the Last Waltz horn arrangements, and Simon told him he hadn’t received a royalty check from sales of those first two albums in a long time. Robertson told him he would talk to Capitol Records about that situation. Robbie got back to him, telling him that if he agreed to sign away his rights to any future royalties from sales of the two Band albums, Capitol would send him a check for the royalties already owed him, and would give him a percentage of the profits from the Last Waltz film. Robertson told Simon they were all gonna get rich from the album and movie.

What Robertson knew but didn’t tell Simon, was that he (Simon) and the Band members other than himself would not see any money until all the production costs of making the film were recouped. Robertson alone of the members of The Band and John Simon was in on the money paid out BEFORE the production costs were recouped (he was an associate producer of the Last Waltz film).

It is said Simon and the Band members other than Robertson never made a dime from the movie, while Robertson did himself get very rich. And Simon---having believed what Robertson told him---did indeed sign away all future royalties in exchange for profits from the movie, which were zero. And Simon has never again received a royalty check from Capitol Records.

Shame on you, Robbie Robertson.


Other fun facts about The Last Waltz:


- Ever wonder why Neil Diamond---clearly out-of-place---was included in the roster of artists? Robertson had produced his latest album. Shameless self-promotion.

- The rehearsal for the show was running long, and Robertson asked Levon to tell Muddy Waters they were going to have to ask him to not do his segment (which is one of the highlights of the concert). Levon’s reaction was "If Muddy’s out, so am I."


This post and the one above should make obvious why Levon held Robbie in the contempt he did.


I thought Jerry Garcia (the Jerry Garcia Band) covered this tune very well on several occasions. Of course, the Grateful Dead covered some of The Band's other songs as well. I think I wore out the cassette tape I had recorded two of Robbie Robertson's solo albums on. Good artist, good song writer. R.I.P.


I found that I enjoy Robert Plants solo releases as much as the LZ body of work.  Greg