Meaning of The Weight – The Band

During its half-century history, the song “The Weight”, the hallmark of the Canadian-American rock band The Band, has repeatedly attracted the attention of music lovers and music critics. Not becoming a huge hit immediately after the release, she won the hearts of the public with the release of several successful cover versions.

The mysterious meaning and mysterious characters of the composition still provoke lively debates in the circles of the band’s fans, and even the detailed explanations of the authors did not put everything in its place. Let’s remember how “The Weight” was written, and also try to figure out who the characters symbolize, where the events described unfolded, and what is the main idea of ​​the song.

History of The Weight

Officially, Robbie Robertson is considered the author of the song, although other members of the group also announced their participation in the creative process and claimed the deductions due to them, which seriously deteriorated the atmosphere in the team.

The Band

In his autobiography, Levon Helm talks about the history of the creation of “The Weight” and explains who is behind the characters mentioned in the song:

We had two or three tunes or snippets of tunes, and “The Weight” was the one I worked on. Robbie had that bit about the trip to Nazareth, Pennsylvania, where the Martin guitar factory is located…

We recorded the song probably four times. We weren’t sure if it should be on the album, but people really liked it. Rick, Richard and I often changed verses with each other, and we all sang the chorus together: “Put the load right on me!”

This Wheel’s on Fire: Levon Helm and the Story of the Band

Main idea and characters

According to the plot of the song, the main character comes to the city of Nazareth, where he meets with different people.

Robertson claimed that when working on the song, the main source of inspiration for him were the surreal films of Luis Buñuel. His paintings shocked the venerable society with a mixture of incongruous elements, colorful images and a critique of values ​​u200bu200bthat were considered fundamental.

Robbie Robertson talked about the main idea of ​​”The Weight”, drawing parallels with the work of the cult Spanish director:

[Бунюэль] made so many films about the impossibility of holiness. People are trying to be good at Viridiana and Nazarin, people are trying to mind their own business. “The Weight” is about the same thing. People like Buñuel made films with religious overtones, but their message was not necessarily religious. Buñuel had these characters trying to be good, but being good is impossible.

“The Weight” is about these very simple things. Someone says: “Listen, will you do me a favor? When you’re there, can you say hi to someone, or give someone this, or give me a lift to one of them? Oh, you’re going to Nazareth, and that’s where the Martin guitar factory is. Do me a favor when you get there…” That’s what it means. This guy goes there, and then one follows from the other, and it becomes something like: “Damn it, how did this happen? I just stopped by to say hello to someone, and I ran into such problems. ” At the time, it seemed to me that this was very in the spirit of Buñuel.

The History of the Band, Rob Bowman

Levon Helm talks about the mysterious characters of “The Weight”:

The song was full of our favorite characters. “Luke” was Jimmy Ray Paulman. “Young Anna Lee” was Anna Lee Williams of Turkey Scratch. “Mad Chester” was a guy we all knew from Fayetteville. On Saturdays he would come into town with toy guns on his hips and kind of walk around the town to keep order… He looked like Hopalong Cassidy and was friends with Hawks… Two big guns with caps and a wig! There were also “Carmen and the Devil”, “Miss Moses” and “Fanny” – a name that seems to just fit into the big picture …

This Wheel’s on Fire: Levon Helm and the Story of the Band

Robertson also said that the text refers to a city in Pennsylvania where famous guitars are made. Robbie has also repeatedly stated that the song lacks biblical overtones. However, many fans of The Band are sure that the musicians are cunning, not wanting to reveal the true meaning of “The Weight”.

Admittedly, their doubts seem well-founded. Nazareth, the devil, Moses, Luke, a wanderer without a roof over his head – you must admit, the allusions suggest themselves. If you give free rein to your imagination, then references to the Bible can be found in all the images and most of the lines of the song.

the band

You can share your vision of the main idea of ​​the composition in the comments.

Release and subsequent history

The single “The Weight” with the song “I Shall Be Released” was released in January 1968 on the Capitol label. In the US, it only reached number 63 on the chart, while in the UK it climbed to number 21.

Soon, several well-known musicians recorded covers, including Aretha Franklin, Jackie DeShannon, Diana Ross & the Supremes and The Temptation. Their versions achieved chart success in the US and Canada, and the song became a real hit.

In subsequent years, the song was performed by dozens of singers and bands: Joe Cocker, Grateful Dead, The Black Crowes, The Allman Brothers Band and many others.

“The Weight” is featured on Rolling Stone’s famous list of the five hundred greatest songs of all time. It is also one of the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Interesting Facts

  • In August 1969, The Band performed “The Weight” at the Woodstock Festival.
  • Jackie DeShannon recalled that she did not want to perform “The Weight”, but the management of her record company insisted on it.
  • The composition can also be heard in many other feature films, commercials, TV series and popular TV shows.
  • A line from this song inspired the Scottish rock band Nazareth to adopt this name.
  • The line “take a load off Fannie” became the coda to the song “Back Home”, which Graham Nash and Shayne Fontayne dedicated to the late Levon Helm.
  • The original song is featured in the movie “Easy Rider”, but the official soundtrack includes a Smith cover due to copyright.

Lyrics of The WeightLyrics of The WeightI pulled into Nazareth1, was feelin’ about half past dead
I just need some place where I can lay my head
“Hey, mister, can you tell me where a man might find a bed?”
He just grinned and shook my hand, “no” was all he said
I just need a place where I can rest
“Hey mister, can you tell me where we can stay tonight?”
He just grinned, shook my hand and said only: “No” Chorus:
Take a load off, Fanny3
Take a load for free
Take a load off, Fanny
And put the load right on me
(You put the load right on me)
Take the burden off your shoulders, Fanny.
Drop it just like that
Take the burden off your shoulders, Fanny.
And put it right on top of me
(You put the burden right on me) I picked up my bag, I went lookin’ for a place to hide
When I saw Carmen and the Devil walkin’ side by side4
I said, “Hey, Carmen, come on let’s go downtown”
She said, “I gotta go but my friend can stick around”
Suddenly I saw Carmen and the Devil walking side by side
I said, “Carmen, let’s go downtown”
And she said, “I’ll go, but my buddy will be there” Chorus Go down, Miss Moses5, there’s nothin’ you can say
It’s just ol’ Luke6 and Luke’s waitin’ on the Judgment Day
“Well, Luke, my friend, what about young Anna Lee?”
He said, “Do me a favor, son, won’t you stay and keep Anna Lee company?” Come on, Miss Moses, there’s nothing to talk about here
It’s just old Luka, and Luka is waiting for Judgment Day.
“So, Luca my friend, how about young Anna Lee?”
He said, “Have mercy, son. Why don’t you hang around and keep her company?”ChorusCrazy Chester followed me and he caught me in the fog
He said, “I will fix your rack7 if you’ll take Jack, my dog”
I said, “Wait a minute, Chester, you know I’m a peaceful man”
He said, “That’s okay, boy, won’t you feed him when you can” Mad Chester followed me and intercepted me in the fog
He said “I’ll put you up for the night if you take my dog ​​Jack”
I said, “Wait a minute, Chester, you know I’m a peaceful person.”
He said “It’s alright boy, just feed him whenever you can” ChorusCatch a cannon ball8 now to take me down the line
My bag is sinkin’ low and I do believe it’s time9
To get back to Miss Fanny, you know she’s the only one
Who sent me here with her regards for everyone
My bag is almost empty and I think I have to go
Back to Miss Fanny, she’s the only one
Sent me here to say hello to everyone

  • It may be hinted that Nazareth, Pennsylvania, where the famous guitars are made, is a holy place for musicians.
  • A reference to the biblical story about the wanderings of Joseph and Mary before the birth of Jesus Christ is not ruled out.
  • Fanny may refer to Cathy Smith, who at various times dated three members of The Band. You can also remember that in slang “fanny” is a synonym for the word “pussy”.
  • “Me and the Devil walkin’ side by side” is a line from the blues standard “Me and the Devil Blues” by Robert Johnson. According to legend, Johnson learned to masterfully play the guitar thanks to a deal with the devil.
  • We recall the legendary spiritual “Go Down, Moses” made famous by Louis Armstrong.
  • The aforementioned misadventures of Joseph and Mary are described just in the Gospel of Luke.
  • The phrase “I’ll fix your rack” can also mean “I’ll knock your teeth out”.
  • “Cannon ball” (cannon ball) called the first trains (for example, in the American folk song “Wabash Cannonball”).
  • This line is understood by many as a reference to the drugs that the protagonist ran out of. Proponents of this theory believe Fanny is a drug dealer.
  • Song quote

    … a masterpiece of biblical allusions, mysterious lines and iconic characters.


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