The Weight

The Band with Robbie Robertson:  The Weight

Quiz by Sharon Michiko Yoneda

Photograph:  Robbie Robertson with The Band (four members of The Band were Canadian).  Robertson is the guitarist on the right.

artists:  The Band with Robbie Robertson

songwriter:  Robbie Robertson

date released:  1968, by The Band

The Band was the influential rock group of the sixties whose members were notable musicians in their own right.  The group consisted of Rick Danko (Green Corner's, Ontario), Garth Hudson (Windsor, Ontario), Richard Manual (Stratford, Ontario), Robbie Robertson (Toronto, Ontario) and American, Levon Helm (Arkansas, U.S.).  The group was forged when they played backup for famed Canadian rockabilly singer Ronnie Hawkins.  

As one of Canada's Top 100 singles of all time, who could forget "The Weight" as one of the most popular songs of the 1960s counterculture?  It was covered by many other artists, such as Aretha Franklin and Diana Ross, but none reached the popularity of the version by The Band.

"The Weight" is a folk tale of a traveller who reaches the town of Nazareth in the LeHigh Valley region of Pennsylvania.  Nazareth is the hometown of the C.F. Martin & Company guitar factory, a fitting mythical destination for a musician. The traveler has left his young bride, Anna Lee, for whom he pines.

 The song is a recitation of notable encounters within the burg of Nazareth.  The traveler is in the company of his dog, Luke, who is dying, "waiting on the Judgment Day."  In the end, the traveller takes the Wabash Cannonball, the famous train line, back to his bride, Anna Lee.

Songwriter, Robbie Robertson, alludes to a possible higher religious connotation as hinted by the Biblical reference, Nazareth, the birthplace of Jesus. Aren't we all carrying "a load", waiting "on the Judgment Day?"  Christians might see an interpretation of Jesus dying for the sins, "the load", of mankind.  For Buddhists, "the load" might be the suffering we were born into as a result of a karmic load from the past. This blogger will leave the metaphors for the listener to interpret as he/she will.

According to band member Levon Helm, the song is based on real people in real events.  "Miss Anna Lee" was a longtime friend of Helm's.