“The Weight“ is an original song by the Canadian-American group The Band that was released as a Capitol Records single in 1968….and on the group’s debut album Music from Big Pink…..as the song was written by Band member Robbie Robertson….which is about a visitor’s experiences in a town mentioned in the lyric’s first line as Nazareth….which later inspired the name of the Scottish band who covered “Love Hurts” in 1976.“The Weight” has significantly influenced American popular music….while having been listed as # 41 on Rolling Stone‘s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time published in 2004….plus, Pitchfork Media named it the 13th best song of the Sixties….and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame named it one of the 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. PBS, which broadcast performances of the song in Ramble at the Ryman (2011), Austin City Limits (2012) and Quick Hits (2012)….and describes it as “a masterpiece of Biblical allusions, enigmatic lines and iconic characters”….and notes its enduring popularity as “an essential part of the American songbook.”
“The Weight” is one of The Band’s best known songs….after gaining considerable album-oriented rock airplay even though it was not a significant hit single for the group in the U.S…..while peaking at # 63. After it was released, the record debuted just six days later on KHJ’s “‘Boss 30” records….and peaked at # 3 there three weeks later….plus the recording also fared well in Canada and the UK….for in those countries, the single was a top 40 hit….while peaking at # 35 in Canada and # 21 in the UK in 1968. The song had three cover releases in 1968 and 1969….with arrangements that appealed to a diversity of music audiences. Aretha Franklin’s 1969 soul music arrangement was included in her This Girl’s in Love with You album….which peaked in the U.S. at # 19 on the Hot 100….and # 3 on the soul chart….while peaking at at # 12 in Canada. Jackie DeShannon’s 1968 pop music arrangement, debuting on the Hot 100 one week before The Band‘s, peaked at # 55 in the U.S. and # 35 in Canada. A joint single rhythm and blues arrangement released by Diana Ross & the Supremes and The Temptations in 1969, hit # 46 in the U.S. and # 36 in Canada. The Band‘s and Jackie DeShannon’s versions never mentioned the title….as The Band‘s version credits the group’s individual membersas Jaime Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel, Garth Hudson and Levon Helm on the record label, rather than The Band as a single entity.
In the rendition of The Weight seen in this video herewith….The Band teams up with The Staple Singers at their Last Waltz Concert…..to provide one of the best performances of the song ever….the it rings of a gospel music message.