The Weight (feat. Ray LaMontagne with the Imposters, Levon Helm, Nick Lowe, Richard Thompson, Larry Campbell & Allen Toussaint)

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Posted: 2009 12-26


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Elvis Costello & the Imposters are joined by Ray LaMontagne, Levon Helm, Nick Lowe, Richard Thompson, Larry Campbell and Allen Toussaint for The Band's "The Weight" Dec 2009

Retrieved from Wikipedia:
The Weight (feat. Ray LaMontagne with the Imposters, Levon Helm, Nick Lowe, Richard Thompson, Larry Campbell & Allen Toussaint) on Wikipedia
"The Weight"
Single by The Band
from the album Music from Big Pink
ReleasedJune 24, 1968
RecordedJanuary 1968
A&R Recorders (studio A),
New York City
GenreFolk rock, roots rock
Writer(s)Robbie Robertson
ProducerJohn Simon
"The Weight"
Single by Diana Ross & the Supremes and The Temptations
from the album Together
B-side"For Better or Worse"
ReleasedAugust 21, 1969
FormatVinyl record
RecordedHitsville U.S.A. (Studios A & B); 1969
GenreFunk, pop, soul
Writer(s)Robbie Robertson
ProducerFrank Wilson
Diana Ross & the Supremes singles chronology

"The Weight" is a 1968 song by The Band. The song appeared originally on The Band's first album, Music from Big Pink.

"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. 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:

  • 1968: Jackie DeShannon took the song to #55 US, #35 Canada.
  • 1969: The final joint single in North America released by Diana Ross & the Supremes and The Temptations, hit #46 US, #36 Canada.
  • 1969: Aretha Franklin's version (from This Girl's in Love with You) was the highest charting recording of "The Weight" in both the U.S. and Canada, peaking at #19 US, #12 Canada.

None of these cover versions charted in the UK, where The Band's version of "The Weight" remains the only version to chart.

The song is #41 in Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list, published in 2004.[1] 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]

Song theme

"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. Years later, 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 a hotel, Carmen and the Devil walking side by side, "Crazy Chester," who offers a bed in exchange for the traveler taking his dog, and Luke who is "waiting on Judgment Day", 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 on the ' put the load..'

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.

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]

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, and Saturday Night Live. The song has also been used in commercials for Diet Coke and Cingular/AT&T Wireless.

Due to contractual problems, The Band's version could not be used in 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.


  • Rick Danko - Bass guitar, backing vocal, lead vocal on fourth verse
  • Levon Helm - Drums, lead vocals
  • Garth Hudson - Piano
  • Richard Manuel - Hammond organ (mixed low), backing vocal
  • Robbie Robertson - Acoustic guitar

Cover versions

"The Weight" has become a modern standard, and hence has been covered by many other acts, most prominently Little Feat, Stoney LaRue, Aaron Pritchett, The Staple Singers, 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, Weezer, 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, and a joint effort by Diana Ross & the Supremes with The Temptations, The Allman Brothers Band, The Marshall Tucker Band, Jimmy Barnes with The Badloves, and Aaron Pritchett.[8] 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.

Folk singer Michelle Shocked covers the song as part of her 2007 gospel album ToHeavenURide. Waylon Jennings has covered the song live. Charly Garcia covered the song in Spanish under the title "El Peso". 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.

Track listing

  • 7" single (21 August 1969) (North America/United Kingdom) (Diana Ross & the Supremes/The Temptations)
  1. "The Weight" – 3:00
  2. "For Better or Worse" – 2:36

also cover by Orme Storm


  1. ^ "The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Retrieved 2007-06-02. 
  2. ^ "The 200 Greatest Songs of the Sixties". Retrieved 2011-05-05. 
  3. ^ "InfoPlease Almanac". Retrieved 2011-05-05. 
  4. ^ "Martin Guitars". Retrieved 2011-07-28. 
  5. ^ Jacques Steinberg, "New Generation Hops the Mystery Train." New York Times (Online) July 9, 2007.
  6. ^ " Channel 7 - All About Arkansas: Anna Lee Amsden". 
  7. ^ "History of The Band: The Debut Album". 1991-07-26. Retrieved 2011-05-05. 
  8. ^ "Aaron Pritchett Scores 10th Consecutive Top 10 Single at Country Radio With "Done You Wrong"". 2011-03-12. Retrieved 2011-05-05. 

External links

  • An interpretation of "The Weight"'s lyrics by Peter Viney with a list of 41 cover versions
  • Full song chords and lyrics

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