The Band was an acclaimed and influential roots rock group. The original group consisted of Rick Danko (bass guitar, double bass, fiddle, trombone, vocals), Garth Hudson (keyboard instruments, saxophones, trumpet), Richard Manuel (piano, drums, baritone saxophone, vocals), and Robbie Robertson (guitar, vocals), and Levon Helm (drums, mandolin, guitar, vocals). All five members were notable musicians in their own right.
The members of the Band first came together as they joined rockabilly singer Ronnie Hawkins's backing group, The Hawks, one by one between 1958 and 1963. Upon leaving Hawkins in 1964, they were briefly known as the Levon Helm Sextet with sax player Jerry Penfound being the sixth member, then Levon and the Hawks after Penfound's departure. In 1965, they released a single on Ware Records under the name Canadian Squires, but returned as Levon and the Hawks for a recording session for Atco later in 1965. At about the same time, Bob Dylan recruited Helm and Robertson for two concerts, then the entire group for his U.S. tour in 1965 and world tour in 1966. They also joined him on the informal recordings that later became The Basement Tapes.
Because they were always "the band" to various frontmen, Helm said the name "The Band" worked well when the group came into its own and left Saugerties, New York, to begin recording their own material. They recorded two of the most acclaimed albums of the late 1960s: their 1968 debut Music from Big Pink (featuring the single "The Weight") and 1969's The Band. In 2004, "The Weight" was ranked the 41st best song of all time in Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list.
The Band broke up in 1976, but reformed in 1983 without founding guitarist Robbie Robertson. They were recorded live in concert at Vancouver's Queen Elizabeth Theatre that year, assisted by four extra musicians. It was their first taped performance since The Last Waltz. That show has been released as The Band Reunion and The Band is Back in 59 and 87 minute versions.
Although the Band was always more popular with music journalists and fellow musicians than with the general public, they have remained an admired and influential group. The group was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1989 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked them #50 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, and in 2008, they received the Grammy's Lifetime Achievement Award.
The Band's music fused many elements: primarily old country music and early rock and roll, though the rhythm section often was reminiscent of Stax or Motown, and Robertson cites Curtis Mayfield and the Staple Singers as major influences, resulting in a synthesis of many musical genres. As to the group's songwriting, very few of their early compositions were based on conventional blues and doo-wop chord changes.
Every member was a multi-instrumentalist. There was little instrument-switching when they played live, but when recording, the musicians could make up different configurations in service of the songs. Hudson in particular was able to coax a wide range of timbres from his Lowrey organ; on the choruses of "Tears of Rage", for example, it sounds like a mellotron. Helm's drumming was often praised: critic Jon Carroll declared that Helm was "the only drummer who can make you cry," while prolific session drummer Jim Keltner admits to appropriating several of Helm's techniques.
Singers Manuel, Danko, and Helm each brought a distinctive voice to the Band: Helm's southern voice had more than a hint of country, Danko sang in a tenor, and Manuel alternated between falsetto and baritone. The singers regularly blended in harmonies. Though the singing was more or less evenly shared among the three men, both Danko and Helm have stated that they saw Manuel as the Band's "lead" singer. ~ SOURCE: Wikipedia
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