It Makes No Difference

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Posted: 2009 04-14


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An Almost Perfect Band Live at Winterland On Thanksgiving November 25th 19

What can be said about The Last Waltz that hasn't been said before? 

Released in 1978, the legendary Martin Scorsese film documents the Band's last concert, an elaborate show (including Thanksgiving dinner!) at San Francisco's Winterland Ballroom. 

Long story short, when the cameras roll, it's November 25, 1976, the Band are in good form, a few friends show up to jam, and it turns out to be rather a nice show.

(If you haven't seen this film, you may not know how much I'm understating things here. Then again, if you haven't seen this film, I offer - respectfully - that you've wasted your life, so you're not really my audience.)

Sure, the first ten times you watch this film, you definitely gravitate towards the flash and star power of clips like "The Weight" (featuring a positively crackling Staples Singers) or "Helpless" (featuring an infamously coked-out Neil Young chewing his pasty cud like a confused Guernsey).

Eventually, though, you're drawn to quieter, purer clips like this.

"It Makes No Difference" had only been recorded a year before as the 6th track on "Northern Lights - Southern Cross", an album that received decent, but not outstanding reviews. The album peaked at #26, and It's safe to say that if not for this performance, the song might have been a footnote.

But this performance did happen - it was the third song of the actual concert, though it appears later in the film - and it stands out as one the most memorable in the film.

It's one of those simple, plaintive songs for which Danko's voice was superbly suited, and he jerks it out of the park.

If you close your eyes, hold your nose, and sing along, you can imagine this as a Dylan song - and of course, the relationship between Dylan and the Band was highly symbiotic: they helped him immeasurably in the development of what you could still have called his "electric sound", and he helped them become ever tighter as songwriters and performers.

In Dylan's hands, though, this song might seem cynical and bitter. In Danko's, it's innocent, emotional and soulful.  

Robbie Robertson's tense, staccato guitar fills and solos give this languid, mellow song an energy and intensity it deserves, and Garth Hudson's unexpected sax solo towards the end basically ties a bow around this thing and makes it an almost perfect performance.

The Last Waltz was among the first 20 videos Song released on its Blu-Ray format. No surprise: the film's video and audio is pretty much flawless. When I buy some Blu-Ray gear, it'll be the first disc I pick up.

But the intensity of this performance would shine through on an old VHS. Hell, go watch a mangy, crushed-up clip on YouTube and you'll see what I mean.

It makes no difference.


Daniel Rotstein's picture

Well said Greg! I love The Last Waltz - all the performances and interviews are great! Too bad Shine A Light pales in comparison...


YouTube Uploader: T. K.
Retrieved from Wikipedia:
It Makes No Difference on Wikipedia
"It Makes No Difference"
Song by The Band from the album Northern Lights – Southern Cross
Writer(s)Robbie Robertson
Producer(s)The Band
Northern Lights – Southern Cross track listing

"It Makes No Difference" is a song written by Robbie Robertson and sung by Rick Danko that was first released by The Band on their 1975 album Northern Lights – Southern Cross. It has also appeared on live and compilation albums, including the soundtrack to the film The Last Waltz. Among the artists covering the song are Solomon Burke, My Morning Jacket and Over the Rhine.


  • 1 Lyrics and music
  • 2 Reception
  • 3 Other appearances
  • 4 Cover versions
  • 5 References
  • 6 External links

Lyrics and music

Critic Barney Hoskyns described "It Makes No Difference" as "an artlessly simple country-soul ballad."[1] Band biographer Craig Harris considers it "one of pop music's saddest songs."[2] Music critic Nick DeRiso similarly states that "The Band, as a whole, has never constructed a sadder moment, nor one with more direct specificity."[3] The song's theme is the singer's inability to get over a failed relationship.[2] Among the metaphors used to portray the singer's sadness are images of weather, such as the sun never shining, constant rain and clouds hanging low.[2]

Critics have attributed much of the success of "It Makes No Difference" to Rick Danko's lead vocal.[1][3] Hoskyns considers that "there is something so elemental" in how Danko expresses his loss that it transcends self-pity.[1] According to DeRiso, Danko's vocal manages to express the "lonesome bottom of this song while retaining its sense of reckless emotional abandon," without ever sounding resigned to his fate.[3] Levon Helm and Richard Manuel add harmony vocals on the refrain, adding to the sense of pain.[1][3] Hoskyns and DeRiso also credit Robertson's and Garth Hudson's "anguished" guitar and saxophone solos for complementing the effect of the vocals.[1][3] According to DeRiso, Danko, Hudson and Robertson are all "walking the same fine line — Danko, between torment and utter heartsick disaster; Hudson and Robertson between stabbing attempts at redemption and a reluctant acceptance."[3]

According to Robertson, “I wrote this song specifically for Rick to sing and when we first started discovering the possibilities, it kept expanding to more levels of emotion. What Garth and I could add to finalize the statement of this song was purely instinctual.”[3]


According to The New Rolling Stone Album Guide critic Mark Kemp, "It Makes No Difference" is one of three songs on Northern Lights – Southern Cross, along with "Ophelia" and "Acadian Driftwood," on which "Robertson reclaims his reputation as one of rock's great songwriters.[4] Hoskyns considers it and "Acadian Driftwood" to be "the most moving songs Robertson had written in five years."[1] Allmusic critic Rob Bowman claims that it "might be the best romantic ballad ever done by the group."[5] The Sarasota Herald-Tribune described the song as "poignant" and praised its eloquence as being worthy of a Grammy Award.[6] Pittsburgh Post-Gazette critic Ed Masley considers "It Makes No Difference" to be "Robertson's best song," praising its majesty and "heartbreaking soul."[7]

Other appearances

"It Makes No Difference" has appeared on many of The Band's live and compilation albums. A live performance was included on both the film The Last Waltz and both the 1978 version and 2002 version of its soundtrack album.[8] AllMusic critic Mark Deming describes this rendition as "impassioned."[9] In a generally negative review of the album, The Michigan Daily's R.J. Smith praises the performance of "It Makes No Difference" for Danko's "superb" vocal and for the group's "intensity."[10] Another live version was included on Live in Tokyo 1983.[8] The song has been included on the compilation albums The Best of the Band (1976), To Kingdom Come: The Definitive Collection (1989) and Greatest Hits (2000).[8] It was also included on the box sets Across the Great Divide (1994) and A Musical History (2005).[8]

Cover versions

Solomon Burke covered "It Makes No Difference" on his 2005 album Make Do with What You Got.[11] Deming praises his version for bring the song "to vivid and passionate life that's thrilling to hear."[11] My Morning Jacket covered "It Makes No Difference" on the 2007 tribute album Endless Highway: The Music of The Band.[12] Ben Windham of The Tuscaloosa News particularly praised the lead vocal and "biting guitar" of this version.[13] My Morning Jacket also covered the song on Love for Levon in 2012.[14] Over the Rhine covered the song on their 2013 album Meet Me at the Edge of the World.[15] AllMusic critic James Christopher Monger praised their version as "a soulful, Carole King-inspired take.".[15] Post-punk group the Mekons also covered the song on their F.U.N. 90 EP from 1990. Trey Anastasio covers the song with his band, the Trey Anastasio Band.


  1. ^ a b c d e f Hoskyns, B. (2006). Across the Great Divide: The Band and America. Hal Leonard. ASIN B001C4QHK0. 
  2. ^ a b c Harris, C. (2014). The Band. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 144. ISBN 9780810889040. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g DeRiso, N. "Across the Great Divide: The Band, "It Makes No Difference" from Northern Lights-Southern Cross (1975)". Something Else!. Retrieved 2015-06-07. 
  4. ^ Kemp, M. (2004). Brackett, N., ed. The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Fireside. p. 43. ISBN 0743201698. 
  5. ^ Bowman, R. "Northern Lights-Southern Cross". Allmusic. Retrieved 2015-06-07. 
  6. ^ "The Band Bounces Back". The Sarasota Herald-Tribune. December 14, 1975. p. 88. Retrieved 2015-06-07. 
  7. ^ Masley, E. (December 8, 2005). "What's in the Box". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. pp. E14–E15. Retrieved 2015-06-07. 
  8. ^ a b c d "It Makes No Difference". Allmusic. Retrieved 2015-06-07. 
  9. ^ Deming, M. "The Last Waltz". Allmusic. Retrieved 2015-06-07. 
  10. ^ Smith, R.J. (May 23, 1978). "'The Last Waltz' a Failed Performance". The Michigan Daily. p. 11. Retrieved 2015-06-07. 
  11. ^ a b Deming,M. "Make Do with What You Got". Allmusic. Retrieved 2015-06-07. 
  12. ^ Jurek, T. "Endless Highway: The Music of The Band". Allmusic. Retrieved 2015-06-07. 
  13. ^ Windham, B. (April 1, 2007). "Tribute Doesn't Live Up to The Band's Masterpieces". The Tuscaloosa News. p. 8E. Retrieved 2015-05-26. 
  14. ^ "Love for Levon: A Benefit to Save the Barn". Allmusic. Retrieved 2015-06-07. 
  15. ^ a b Monger, J.C. "Meet Me at the Edge of the World". Allmusic. Retrieved 2015-06-07. 

External links

  • Lyrics of this song at MetroLyrics

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