The Band is the eponymous second studio album by The Band, released on September 22, 1969. It is also known as The Brown Album. According to Rob Bowman's liner notes for the 2000 reissue, The Band has been viewed as a concept album, with the songs focusing on people, places and traditions associated with an older version of Americana. Thus, the songs on this album draw from historic themes for "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down", "King Harvest (Has Surely Come)" and Richard Manuel's "Jawbone" (which was composed in the unusual 6/4 time signature.)
The Band was an acclaimed and influential roots rock group. The original group consisted of Rick Danko (bass guitar, double bass, fiddle, trombone, vocals), Levon Helm (drums, mandolin, guitar, vocals), Garth Hudson (keyboard instruments, saxophones, trumpet), Richard Manuel (piano, drums, baritone saxophone, vocals) and Robbie Robertson (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. Dylan continued to collaborate with The Band over the course of their career, including the informal 1967 recordings that became The Basement Tapes and a joint 1974 tour.
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. But Alan Livingston, who, as president of EMI records signed them in 1968, claims that he came up with their name when no one could think of what to call them. 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, officially ending their touring career with an elaborate live ballroom performance featuring numerous musical celebrities. This performance was immortalized in Martin Scorsese's 1978 documentary The Last Waltz. The Band reformed in 1983 without guitarist Robbie Robertson, who had found success with a solo career and as a Hollywood music producer. The reformed Band were recorded live in concert at Vancouver's Queen Elizabeth Theatre that year, assisted by four extra musicians; It has been released as The Band Reunion and The Band is Back. Following a 1986 show, Richard Manuel was found dead of suicide. However, The Band continued to tour and record albums until the death of Rick Danko in 1999, when the group broke up for good. Levon Helm was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1998, and after a series of treatments was able to regain use of his voice. He continued to perform and released several successful albums until he succumbed to the disease 19 April 2012.
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.
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