Meaning of the song “The Weight” by the Band

Uploaded by on Jun 7, 2010

From their movie “The Last Waltz” with The Staple Singers –

I pulled into Nazareth, I was feelin’ about half past dead;
I just need some place where I can lay my head.
“Hey, mister, can you tell me where a man might find a bed?”
He just grinned and shook my hand, and “No!”, was all he said.

(Chorus:)
Take a load off Fannie, take a load for free;
Take a load off Fannie, And (and) (and) you can put the load right on me.

I picked up my bag, I went lookin’ for a place to hide;
When I saw Carmen and the Devil walkin’ side by side.
I said, “Hey, Carmen, come on, let’s go downtown.”
She said, “I gotta go, but m’friend can stick around.”

(Chorus)

Go down, Miss Moses, there’s nothin’ you can say
It’s just ol’ Luke, and Luke’s waitin’ on the Judgement Day.
“Well, Luke, my friend, what about young Anna Lee?”
He said, “Do me a favor, son, woncha stay an’ keep Anna Lee company?”

(Chorus)

Crazy Chester followed me, and he caught me in the fog.
He said, “I will fix your rags, if you’ll take Jack, my dog.”
I said, “Wait a minute, Chester, you know I’m a peaceful man.”
He said, “That’s okay, boy, won’t you feed him when you can.”

(Chorus)

Catch a Cannonball, now, t’take me down the line
My bag is sinkin’ low and I do believe it’s time.
To get back to Miss Annie, you know she’s the only one.
Who sent me here with her regards for everyone.

(Chorus)

___________

The Weight

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“The Weight”
Single by The Band
from the album Music from Big Pink
B-side I Shall Be Released
Released June 24, 1968
Format 45′
Recorded January 1968
A&R Recorders (studio A),
New York City
Genre Folk rock, roots rock
Length 4:34
Label Capitol
Writer(s) Robbie Robertson
Producer John Simon
Music sample
Play sound
 
“The Weight”
Single by Diana Ross & the Supremes and The Temptations
from the album Together
B-side “For Better or Worse”
Released August 21, 1969
Format Vinyl record (7″, 45 RPM)
Recorded Hitsville U.S.A. (Studios A & B); 1969
Genre Funk, pop, soul
Length 3:00
Label Motown
M 1153
Writer(s) Robbie Robertson
Producer Frank Wilson
Diana Ross & the Supremes singles chronology
No Matter What Sign You Are
(1969)
The Weight
(1969)
I Second That Emotion
(1969)
Together track listing
 
[show]10 tracks
Side one
  1. Stubborn Kind of Fellow
  2. I’ll Be Doggone
  3. The Weight
  4. Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing
  5. Uptight (Everything’s Alright)
Side two
  1. Sing a Simple Song
  2. My Guy, My Girl” (medley of both songs)
  3. “For Better or Worse”
  4. Can’t Take My Eyes Off You
  5. Why (Must We Fall in Love)
The Temptations singles chronology
I Can’t Get Next to You
(1969)
The Weight
(1969)
Psychedelic Shack
(1969)
Music sample
Play sound
Alternative cover
 

“The Weight” is a song written by Robbie Robertson. It was released by The Band as Capitol Records single 2269 in 1968, and appeared one week later on the group’s debut album Music from Big Pink. The song is listed as #41 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time published in 2004,[1] and Pitchfork Media named it the thirteenth best song of the Sixties.[2] The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame named it one of the 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.[3]

Contents

 [hide

[edit] Composition

“The Weight” takes the folk music motif of a traveler, who in the first line arrives in Nazareth in the Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania. (The band Nazareth took its name from this line.) Once there, he encounters various residents of the town, the song being a story of these encounters. Nazareth is the hometown of the guitar manufacturer C. F. Martin & Company.[4]

The residents include a man who cannot direct the traveler to any lodging, Carmen and the Devil walking side by side, “Crazy Chester”, and Luke “waiting on Judgment Day” while leaving his young bride behind and alone.

Musically, the song shows the blending of folk parlour song (harmonies) in the chorus, where the voices come in: “and, (and, and), you put the load right on me (you put the load right on me)”.

In his autobiography This Wheel’s on Fire, Levon Helm explains that the people mentioned in the song were based on real people The Band knew. The “Miss Anna Lee” mentioned in the lyric is Helm’s longtime friend Anna Lee Amsden.[5][6]

On August 17, 1969, The Band played “The Weight” as the 10th song in their set at Woodstock.

[edit] Robertson on “The Weight”

According to songwriter Robertson, “The Weight” was inspired by the films of Luis Buñuel, about which Robertson once said:

(Buñuel) did so many films on the impossibility of sainthood. People trying to be good in Viridiana and Nazarin, people trying to do their thing. In ‘The Weight’ it’s the same thing. People like Buñuel would make films that had these religious connotations to them but it wasn’t necessarily a religious meaning. In Buñuel there were these people trying to be good and it’s impossible to be good. In “The Weight” it was this very simple thing. Someone says, “Listen, would you do me this favour? When you get there will you say ‘hello’ to somebody or will you give somebody this or will you pick up one of these for me? Oh? You’re going to Nazareth, that’s where the Martin guitar factory is. Do me a favour when you’re there.” This is what it’s all about. So the guy goes and one thing leads to another and it’s like “Holy shit, what’s this turned into? I’ve only come here to say ‘hello’ for somebody and I’ve got myself in this incredible predicament.” It was very Buñuelish to me at the time.[7]

[edit] Reception

“The Weight” is one of the group’s best known songs and among the most popular songs of the late 1960s counterculture. However, the song was not a significant mainstream hit for The Band in the U.S., peaking at only #63, though it fared better on some radio stations (e.g., #3 on KHJ[8]). The Band’s record fared much better in Canada and the UK – in those countries, the single was a top 40 hit, peaking at #35 in Canada and #21 in the UK in 1968. Three cover versions of “The Weight” charted higher on the US pop charts in 1968/69 than The Band’s original recording:

None of these cover versions charted in the UK, where The Band’s version remains the only version to chart. The label credit on The Band’s version mentions the names of the band’s five members but not The Band per se. The lyrics on The Band’s and DeShannon’s versions never mention the title.

[edit] Other cover versions

“The Weight” has become a modern standard, and hence has been covered in concert by many other acts, most prominently Little Feat, Stoney LaRue, Aaron Pritchett, The Staple Singers, Waylon Jennings, Joe Cocker, Travis, Grateful Dead, The New Riders of the Purple Sage, O.A.R., Edwin McCain, The Black Crowes, Spooky Tooth, Hanson, Old Crow Medicine Show, Shannon Curfman, Panic! at the Disco, Aretha Franklin, Joan Osborne, John Denver, Cassandra Wilson, Miranda Lambert, Al Kooper and Mike Bloomfield, Deana Carter, New Madrid, and Dionne Warwick. Ratdog and Bob Weir are also known to cover this song from time to time. Additional notable versions are by Lee Ann Womack, the band Smith, Weezer, The Allman Brothers Band, The Marshall Tucker Band, Jimmy Barnes with The Badloves, Free Wild and Aaron Pritchett.[9] At the end of the documentary It Might Get Loud Jack White, Jimmy Page and The Edge play The Weight acoustically while The Edge and White swap vocals.

On record, folk singer Michelle Shocked covers the song as part of her 2007 gospel album ToHeavenURide. Charly Garcia covered the song in Spanish under the title “El Peso,” and Czech singer Marie Rottrová covered the song with the band Flamingo in 1970. Jeff Healey covered it on his album Mess of Blues in 2008.

[edit] Film and commercial play

“The Weight” has been featured in a number of films and television shows – films featuring the song include Easy Rider; Hope Floats; Igby Goes Down (a cover version by Travis); The Big Chill; Girl, Interrupted; Patch Adams; 1408; and Starsky & Hutch (as a parody of the scene in Easy Rider). Television shows which have featured “The Weight” include Californication, My Name Is Earl, Sports Night, Cold Case, Chuck, and Saturday Night Live. The song has also been used in commercials for Diet Coke and Cingular/AT&T Wireless. “The Weight” was also covered by Sherie Rene Scott in the Broadway musical Everyday Rapture.

Due to contractual problems, The Band’s version was used in the movie, but not the soundtrack for Easy Rider – included instead on the film’s soundtrack was a cover (very closely resembling The Band’s original) by Smith. In The Band’s concert film, The Last Waltz, The Band perform the song with the The Staple Singers. The song is also featured in two other of The Band’s concert videos: The Band Is Back (1984) and The Band Live At The New Orleans Jazz Festival (1998). “The Weight” was one of three songs The Band’s 1990s lineup performed for Let It Rock!, a birthday concert/tribute for Ronnie Hawkins. “The Weight” is one of three songs performed by The Band featured in the 2003 documentary film, Festival Express.

An acoustic rendition of the song appears in the 2009 documentary It Might Get Loud, performed by guitarists Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White.

[edit] Personnel

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