Woodstock Flashback: The Band Unloads “The Weight”

by Peter Wendel
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The Band [photo: Elliot Landy]

The Band [photo: Elliot Landy]

In the summer of ’69, The Band had only one album out – a lean repertoire of fewer than a dozen original songs – but that didn’t stop the Canadian quintet from completely mesmerizing the massive crowd that gathered at Woodstock some 100 miles northwest of New York City.

On Sunday, August 17, 1969, at Yasgur’s Farm, The Band performed 7 of the 11 songs from their 1968 debut album, Music From Big Pink – an LP that would become a cult classic due, in no small part, to the inclusion of “The Weight” in the 1969 biker movie Easy Rider (not to mention the band’s stellar performance at Woodstock).

In 2003, Rolling Stone ranked Music From Big Pink 34th on its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. For a little context, Big Pink was sandwiched between the Ramones’ 1976 self-titled debut album at #33 and David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972) at #35.

Music From Big Pink (1968)

Music From Big Pink (1968)

As for The Band’s Woodstock performance, it was omitted entirely from the festival’s official soundtrack because of licensing issues. Had there not been legal complications, it’s likely “The Weight” and/or the cover of Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” (see setlist below) would have been included on the soundtrack. (A cover version of “The Weight” by the band Smith appears on the soundtrack.)

Let’s flashback to the heady days of ’69 as The Band performed for legions on the fields of Yasgur’s Farm.

August 17, 1969
Yasgur’s Farm, Bethel, NY

Levon Helm – drums, vocals, mandolin
Robbie Robertson – guitar, vocals
Rick Danko – bass, vocals
Garth Hudson – organ, piano, clavinet, synthesizer, saxophone
Richard Manuel – piano, organ, vocals, drums

Chest Fever, Don’t Do It, Tears Of Rage, We Can Talk, Long Black Veil, Don’t You Tell Henry, Ain’t No More Cane On The Brazos, This Wheel’s On Fire, I Shall Be Released, The Weight E: Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever

The Weight

The Band’s laid-back style and sound – blending country, folk-rock and R&B – lock in behind the crisp, warm-whiskey vocals of the legendary Levon Helm.

Peter Wendel is a journalist and PR consultant. He's attended hundreds of concerts and festivals, including the Peach, Mountain Jam, the All Good and Lockn'. He's ridden legendary Grateful Dead runs from Ventura County Fairgrounds to Irvine Meadows (CA) from the Nassau Coliseum (NY) to the Boston Garden (MA). Peter is a former U.S. Marine who – after running into trouble with every last one of his commanding officers – received an honorable discharge and a direct order never to return. Born in California and raised in New Jersey, Peter lived in Boston and Joshua Tree (CA) before settling in the nation's capital. Find him on tour at PWendel@SongMango.com.