Music as a Muse: “The Last Waltz”

last waltz

November 25, 1976.  Thanksgiving Day in San Francisco.  Rock group, The Band, is preparing to make their swan song.  Their farewell concert in the same venue in which they made their debut, The Winterland Ballroom.  Martin Scorsese was there recording the whole thing as an A list of musical stars take the stage to join The Band in their final performance as, well, The Band.

When I say the A list, I mean a truly all-star cast including (but not even closed to limited to) Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Emmylou Harris, Ringo Starr, Van Morrison, Neil Diamond and Eric Clapton, just to name a handful accompanying The Band, horn section and choir.


The Band ft Bob Dylan – Forever Young

The film also shares some insightful interviews with the band members.  A tidbit from an interview with Robbie Robertson that I found notable was that they were are one of the few bands of the era that simply retired.  There was no tragic drug overdose killing the frontman–although drug use was rampant.  The producers had to edit out a glob of cocaine that was.hanging from Neil Young’s nose. (Freep.com)  There was no power struggle and Yoko incited breakup.  They didn’t milk their fame playing concerts at geriatric homes forty years past their prime.  They simply retired upon the realization that they had been on the road for 16 years and were ready to do something new, nothing more.  They went out with a bang, and that was what this concert was all about.

Over thirty years later, this film is widely recognized as one of the greatest music documentaries of all time.  However, Levon Helm, drummer and vocalist of The Band, expresses reservations about it in his biography, saying that Scorsese made Robertson the protagonist of the film and did not portray the synergy of the group. (Chicagotribune.com)

I shall conclude this series with an epic guitar battle between Robbie Robertson and Eric Clapton.  Enjoy.

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