Anthony Raffin ‘17
Throughout the late 1960’s musical artists such as Bob Dylan, The Doors, and Buffalo Springfield became famous by recording songs that focused mostly on America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. Other musical artists such as the Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and Jimi Hendrix became famous for challenging the way the general public perceived music. The Band however, became famous not by speaking out against the war, not by challenging the idea of music, but by tracing rock back to its folk/blues origin.
The Band started out as Levon and the Hawks in 1964, consisting of four Canadians and one American. In 1965, The Band became the backup band for Bob Dylan during his first U.S. tour, a partnership and friendship that would last for ages. After Dylan’s motorcycle crash in 1966, The Band moved to Woodstock into a large pink house they dubbed, “Big Pink.” When they sent in their first album to Capital under the name, The Crackers, Capital rejected the band name and went with the name that Bob Dylan called them regularly, The Band. The Band did not disagree with the name change and went to release their first and most influential album, Music From Big Pink.
Music From Big Pink is an eleven track LP released by Capitol in 1968. The initial sales of the album were slim, but received many positive reviews from music critics. All of the members of The Band contributed to the song-writing process for all the songs on Big Pink, with Bob Dylan co-writing three songs. With “Tears of Rage,” opening the album it demonstrates the passion The Band has about their music, and sets the tone for the entire album. “The Weight,” written by Robbie Robertson came in at #63 on the Billboard Top 100 chart in the US, but scored much better in the UK and Canada. The album is well known for the involvement of all band members, with all members singing and changing their instrument during songs or inbetween songs.
The album went somewhat unnoticed for months after the initial release in July of 1968, but in the Summer of 1969 The Band played the Woodstock. During Woodstock, The Band played “The Weight, Tears of Rage, This Wheel’s on Fire, etc.” After Woodstock, The Band gained popularity after bootlegs of their performance at Woodstock was released, increasing sales of the album years after the release. “The Weight,” then became a staple song for the 1960’s and influenced many major artists, such as “The Beatles, Eric Clapton, and Roger Waters.”
Looking back on the album’s history throughout pop culture and unit sales, it has changed greatly from what The Band originally believed it would be. In 2003, Rolling Stone placed the album at #34 on the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time.” The album was re released on 180 gram vinyl in 2008, with the sales skyrocketing due to vinyl enthusiasts.
Music From Big Pink is one of the greatest albums ever released by one of my favorite artists. The songs blend together in a rockabilly style and release deeper meanings with every listening of the album. I myself have listened to the album on both vinyl and digitally (through my phone), and I have found that on vinyl, Big Pink carries much more warmth and characteristic that it deserves. The album is definitely worth listening to, and the songs will change the way you think about music.