Friday, November 25, 2011

It was 35 years ago today...

Today is an important day because it was 35 years ago today that The Band held a concert at the Winterland in San Francisco called "The Last Waltz". 

The Last Waltz was so much more than a concert or a film directed by Martin Scorsese.  It was more than a Thanksgiving feast where the 5,000 people in attendance were treated to dinner and dancing prior to the show's 9pm start.  It was also much more than The Band's last concert together (except for reunions shows with various formations).

The Last Waltz is an important milestone in the history of rock and roll and a key moment in the history of Canadian music. 

I suspect many people aren't aware of The Band's connections to Canada, in fact most of the Band was born in Ontario.  Robbie Robertson was born in Toronto, Garth Hudson was born in Windsor, Rick Dank was born in Green's Corners and Richard Manuel was born in Stratford.  Only Levon Helm was born in the USA, having been born in Arkansas in 1940.  The band spent many of their early years backing Ronnie Hawkins, playing clubs up and down Yonge Street in Toronto.  They had strong connections to other Canadian musicians and those are evident in The Last Waltz.  In fact, many other Canadian musicians including Neil Young and Joni Mitchell performed with The Band during The Last Waltz.  Here's a great example of that, Acadian Driftwood. 

The Last Waltz deserves to be remembered today for a number of reasons:

  1. It was a celebration of the impact Canadian musicians had on rock and roll from it's ascent in the 1950's to the mid 1970's. 
  2. It showed that bands could to go out while still on top and do it with grace and tact instead of fiery theatrics and sub-par music.  
  3. Many of the performances recorded at The Last Waltz are some of the best versions of those songs ever recorded.  (Who Do You Love with Ronnie Hawkins in particular and Van The Man's Caravan to name a few)
  4. It spawned a concert movie that is still today thought of as the best concert films ever made.  
I own a copy of The Last Waltz on vinyl and listen to it often.  I also own the original concert film.   If you're interested in the The Last Waltz, I'd suggest picking up the 4 CD box-set that includes the concert in its entirety.

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