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Music from Big Pink by The Band

Tom Radigan

11 Jul 2022

In 1968 a lot was happening in rock music. A lot of new acts were emerging and bringing a type of powerful and effective sound to their music. One of these acts was a band called the Band. This band included five members: Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel, Garth Hudson and Levon Helm. They started out as singer Ronnie Hawkins’s backing band, the Hawks. They later became Bob Dylan’s backing band. They had already played for most of the decade together and had proven themselves to be talented musicians in their own right. When it came time for them to do their own album they were able to prevail.

These five members all had something to give. None shined without the other. They all did their part. With Helm, Manuel and Danko's rocking and soulful voices, Robertson’s songwriting and Hudson’s musicianship would guide them to becoming one of the most successful rock groups of all time.
The reason for the title of this album was due to the creation of these songs in a pink house in West Saugerties, New York. They used this house to write their own songs and some songs they worked on with Dylan.

The first track on this album is Dylan’s “Tears of Rage” which was co-written by Manuel who also sings lead on it as well and makes this song such a soulful ballad. What hooked me to this song is the ballsy organ riff. And then it just becomes more interesting as hearing Manuel’s voice singing in a calm state of mind which brings this tune such beauty.

The most famous song on the album that became the group's most signature song was “The Weight.” Like most of their songs it’s credited to just Robertson yet it has been documented from Helm over the years that the songwriting process was a group effort from all five of them. The power of this song is Levon’s voice and his harmonies between Danko and Manuel. The power of these three voices continue in the next track written by Manuel which is “We Can Talk.” It's such a comedic song that all three sing on. What makes this song so clever is that each of them finish each other's phrases.

Another essential track from this album would be “Chest Fever” which has Hudson all over it with his heavy organ playing that carries the song. We can’t forget the hollering of Manuel singing lyrics that don’t make a lot of sense yet it’s so fun to sing.
Danko collaborates with Dylan on the song “This Wheel’s on Fire.” This is a great tune that represents Danko’s raspy type of voice and is able to produce a raw sound on it. What helps add a great flavor to the song is the harmonies between Danko, Helm and Manuel.

What ends the album is the gospel style song “I Shall Be Released” also written by Dylan. Manuel sings this in falsetto with harmonies from Helm and Danko in the chorus. It’s an interesting way to close out this masterpiece of an album. If you want to hear deep meaningful music then this album is for you.

Music from Big Pink by The Band