“I Shall Be Released“ is a 1967 song, written by Bob Dylan…..as The Band recorded the first officially released version of the song for their 1968 debut album, Music from Big Pink, with Richard Manuel singing lead vocals….and Rick Danko and Levon Helm harmonizing in the chorus.
The song was also performed near the end of the Band’s 1976 farewell concert, The Last Waltz, in which all the night’s performers….with the exception of Muddy Waters….plus Ringo Starr and Ronnie Wood appeared on the same stage. Additional live recordings by the Band were included on the 1974 concert album Before the Flood and the 2001 expanded CD reissue of Rock of Ages.
Bob Dylan originally recorded two primary versions…..with the first recording being made in collaboration with The Band during the “basement tapes” sessions in 1967….and eventually released on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1–3 in 1991. A remixed version of this 1967 take was re-released along with a preliminary take on The Bootleg Series Vol. 11: The Basement Tapes Complete in 2014. Of the initial demo, Rolling Stone’s Jann Wenner had said, “Curiously enough the music in this song and the high pleading sound of Dylan’s voice reminds one of the Bee Gees.” Dylan then recorded the song a second time….with a significantly different arrangement and altered lyrics….while being accompanied by Happy Traum in 1971, releasing this new version on Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits Vol. II.
In 1969, the Jamaican harmony group The Heptones covered “I Shall Be Released” as a reggae tune for Studio One….and then later on in 1976 at Lee “Scratch” Perry’s Black Ark studio and label for the album Party Time.
In this rendition of I Shall Be Released seen herewith….The Band (Robbie Robertson, Richard Manuel, Garth Hudson, Rick Danko and Levon Helm) are joined on stage by Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond, Joanie Mitchell, Dr. John, Ringo Starr, Ron Woods, Van Morrison, Neil Young, Dr. John and Eric Clapton….to sing this classic song….for there will never be a stage quite like this one again….or a song quite like I Shall Be Released.