Tag Archives: The Band

James Royal Robbie Robertson

James Royal Robbie Robertson

Happy birthday
July 5, 1943
The Band
Woodstock alum
James Royal Robbie Robertson
Jaime Royal “Robbie” Robertson was born on July 5th in Toronto, Canada. His father from Toronto; his mother, of Mohawk descent, born and raised on the Six Nations Reservation. At an early age, Robbie begins learning guitar from relatives during his summer visits to the reservation. (photo & text from Robertson site)

A lucky few are born with a silver spoon in their mouth. Apparently, James Royal “Robbie”Robertson was born with a guitar in his hands.

James Royal Robbie Robertson

Early on before Dylan…

Like many (most?) lifelong rock musicians, Robbie Robertson began playing in local bands in his mid-teens. By the time he was 18 he, along with Levon HelmRick DankoRichard Manuel, and Garth Hudson) was a part of Ronnie Hawkins’s band, Hawkins and the Hawks.

In 1961, Robbie Robertson and his mates became the Canadian Squires and released “Uh Uh Uh” with “Leave Me Alone” on the B-side. Robertson is credited for writing both.

James Royal Robbie Robertson

Enter Dylan

1965 was a turning point in rock and roll. Around for a decade already, the nonetheless “new” genre of Rock split with some headed in a new direction.


Bob Dylan had decided to stop working on Maggie’s farm and go electric. For his band, Dylan recruited Robertson who was quickly followed by the rest of the Squires. They toured with Dylan and then near Dylan’s in Woodstock, NY.

Their pink house was at 56 Parnassus Lane in nearby West Saugerties, NY. They set up a recording studio in its basement and played innumerable hours working on their music together. Dylan frequently stopped by and his famous Basement Tapes came out of this time.

Dylan’s band became The Band and Music From Big Pink became their first album. Al Kooper, in his Rolling Stone magazine review of the album, wrote in Rolling Stone magazine in August 1968, “I have chosen my album for 1968. Music from Big Pink is an event and should be treated as one.”

James Royal Robbie Robertson

The Band

Rolling Stone magazine carried a lot of weight and the fact that the well-respected Al Kooper endorsed it so enthusiastically was a double-barrel boost.

Robbie Robertson, the person who the record credits with doing most of the Band’s composing, became a star along with the rest of the Band.

James Royal Robbie Robertson

Woodstock Music and Art Fair

If the reclusive Bob Dylan wasn’t available for Woodstock Ventures get together in Bethel, NY, then getting the newly anointed Band there was nearly as good.

There style differed from most other bands surrounding them that weekend in general and that Sunday in particular. It is easy to forget how oddly “unrock” their style of rock was.

In concert the Band and Robertson were as tight and proficient as any ever was. Those basement hours paid many dividends.

James Royal Robbie Robertson


In 1969, they released their second album, The Band. In 1970, Time magazine put Robertson and the Band on its front cover with the caption “The New Sound of Country Rock.”  1970 saw their third album, Stage Fright. Cahoots in 1971. Rock of Ages in 1972.

They toured and they partied. They partied and they toured.

James Royal Robbie Robertson

Last Waltz

By 1976, only eight years after the release of Big Pink, Robertson and the other members took a break. They billed it as the Last Waltz and threw a party filmed and recorded by filmmaker friend Martin Scorsese. A who’s who of friends and musicians participated, including Ronnie Hawkins and Bob Dylan.

James Royal Robbie Robertson

Robbie Robertson

It has been  more than 40 years since the Band’s last waltz. The Band, always without Robertson, got together occasionally to record and tour.

Robertson continued to record as well as acting (eg. the 1980 Carny).

James Royal Robbie Robertson

Film scores

He has often contributed to film scores (Raging Bull, King of Comedy, Color of Money, Casino, Gangs of New York, Ladder 49, Shelter Island, The Wolf of Wall Street)

In November 2016, Robertson released his large memoir, Testimony.  (NYT review)

James Royal Robbie Robertson
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Richard George Manuel

Richard George Manuel

April 3, 1943 – March 4, 1986

Richard George Manuel

“She Knows” 1985-12-13, O’Tooles Bar, Scranton, PA by Rick Danko & Richard Manuel

Richard George Manuel

E  Pluribus Unum Band

             It goes without saying that the five members of The Band were an amazing ensemble. Each contributed to a greater whole. Levon Helm’s spice of the American South; Robbie Robertson’s compositions; Rick Danko’s humor; and Garth Hudson’s keyboard anchor. An angelic Richard Manual hovered over all. Mainly on piano, it was his voice, sometimes a pulsating baritone, other times a hair-raising falsetto, that glued all.

Richard George Manuel

The Beginning 

   Richard George Manuel was born in Ontario, Canada. His musical path parallels that of many musicians: he began playing piano at an early age and later formed a band, the Revols, with other teenage friends.

               Dame Fortune always plays a part on our journey and after the Revols shared a bill (theirs in smaller letters) with Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks. Hawkins recognized the genius of Manuel and put him in the band.

Richard George Manuel
The Squires (the Hawks without Ronnie Hawkins): L – R…Rick Danko, Richard Manuel, Levon Helm, Garth Hudson, and Robbie Robertson.

Richard George Manuel

Dylan arrives

               In 1966, Dame Fortune smiled again. Or perhaps both smiled and smirked. Having left Ronnie Hawkins and gone out on their own, Bob Dylan asked the five of them to back him on his new electric adventure. They did and became Bob’s band before simply becoming The Band.

               It was through Dylan that the band met his manager, Albert Grossman. And also through Dylan that, following his recuperation from a motorcycle accident, the band moved to  a house in West Saugerties, NY near Woodstock. The house was pink and, of course, the inspiration for their first album.

               Richard Manual wrote three of the album’s twelve songs: “In a Station,” “We Can Talk,” and “Lonesome Suzie.” He co-wrote “Tears of Rage” with Bob Dylan.

               Life in music’s fast lane offers many diversions and addictions to heroin, cocaine, and alcohol hurt Manuel. His songwriting and general contributions to the band diminished.

               Thanksgiving Day 1976 brought the Band’s figurative and literal Last Waltz. The five would never take the stage again.

Richard George Manuel

Time out

               The break-up provided Manuel with a respite which he used to recover from his addictions. During the early 80s he again performed, sometimes with a reorganized Band, sometimes as part of an acoustic duo with Rick Danko.

               Unfortunately, but the mid-80s, his addictions controlled him again and on March 4, 1986 he wife found him dead. He had hung himself.

               In 1994, Manuel was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Band.

               Three songs were later written in his memory:

  • The Band, “Too Soon Gone” (1993)
  • Ronnie Hawkins, “Days Gone By” (1995)
  • Robbie Robertson, “Fallen Angel” (1987)

…of the three, Robbie Robertson’s is my favorite:

Are you out there?
Can you hear me?
Can you see me in the dark?I don’t believe it’s all for nothing
It’s not just written in the sandSometimes I thought you felt too much
And you crossed into the shadow landAnd the river was overflowing
And the sky was fiery red
You gotta play the hand that’s dealt ya
That’s what the old man always saidFallen angel
Casts a shadow up against the sun
If my eyes could see
The spirit of the chosen oneIn my dream the pipes were playing
In my dream I lost a friend
Come down Gabriel and blow your horn
‘Cause some day we will meet again
All the tears, all the rage
All the blues in the night
If my eyes could see
You kneeling in the silver lightFallin’, fallin’, fallin’ down
Fallin’, fallin’ down
Fallin’, fallin’, fallin’ downFallen angel
Casts a shadow up against the sun
If my eyes could see
The spirit of the chosen oneAll the tears, all the rage
All the blues in the night
If my eyes could see
You kneeling in the silver light 

If you’re out there can you touch me?
Can you see me? I don’t know
If you’re out there can you reach me?
Lay a flower in the snow

Richard George Manuel
Richard Manuel’s grave at the Avondale cemetary in Stratford, Ontario.
The grave is located in section 23A, grave 193. Section 23A is near the very back of the cemetary (as far west as you can go). There is a pathway right through the section. Richard’s stone is just to the right (west) of the path.

Richard George Manuel
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Many Georgias On My Mind

Many Georgias On My Mind

Ray Charles’s may be the most famous…

but a few others first…

…and then a few others later!


It was on this date, November 14, in 1960 that Georgia On My Mind by  Ray Charles was #1 Billboard Hot 100, but the song was already 30 years on when Charles had his hit.
Stuart Gorrell (lyrics) and Hoagy Carmichael (music) wrote the song. 
According to the "National Anthems of the World" site: Hoagy Carmichael went to Indiana University and one of his best college chums was Stuart Gorrell. Hoagy Carmichael was going to be a lawyer and Stuart Gorrell,...had promised someone that he would eventually be a success in the world of business. 
The two of them were together at a party in New York and Hoagy Carmichael played what he had of the "Georgia" music line for Stuart Gorrell... After the party broke up, the two of them went back to a friend's apartment and worked on the tune throughout the night. Stuart Gorrell wrote what he thought would be a good lyric line on the back of a post card...and showed it to Hoagy Carmichael. 
Hoagy Carmichael went on to write many more songs...and Stuart Gorrell kept his promise and became a Vice President at Chase Bank. Stuart Gorrell never tried to write another song lyric. (click for full article >>> Story of "Georgia On My Mind")
Carmichael's version was recorded in 1930:
Many Georgias On My Mind

Frank Trumbauer

...but it was a friend of Carmichael's, Frank Trumbauer, whose version became the song's first hit the following year.

Mildred Bailey

Mildred Bailey also recorded the song in 1931,

Gene Krupa & Anita O’Day

...the drummer Gene Krupa and his orchestra reached No 17 in 1941 with Anita O’Day on vocals
Georgia on My Mind
Gene Krupa & Anita O’Day

Ray Charles

According to the "Life of a Song" site, in 1960 "Rising star Ray Charles had left Atlantic Records in order to gain greater artistic control, higher royalties and mainstream acceptance at a time when albums were starting to outsell singles. His first LP for his new label ABC-Paramount was The Genius Hits the Road, a 12-track concept album themed on places in the US; “Georgia on My Mind”, the standout track, was sandwiched between “Alabamy Bound” and “Basin Street Blues”. Released as a single, it reached No 1 in November 1960 and won a Grammy Award. (click for the full account >>> The full story!)
Here is a live version. To say Charles does a soulful version would be redundant:

The Band

The song continued it's cat-like life and in 1976 The Band's cover was part of Jimmy Carter's successful presidential run. I love this live version from "The Last Waltz." Love you, Richard Manuel.
and finally...

Ludacris, Field Mob, & Jamie Foxx

Also from the "Life of a Song" site: In 2005 the Albany rap group Field Mob’s “Georgia”, with Atlanta-raised Ludacris and Jamie Foxx (who played Ray Charles in the 2004 biopic), bookended a rap on the gritty reality of the state’s underbelly with the rose-tinted yearnings of Carmichael and Gorrell’s song. The idea worked, not least because “Georgia on My Mind” is a brilliant work of imaginative fiction that captures the yearnings of the homesick soul. That fact and fantasy are so out of step only adds to the pathos."

Many Georgias On My Mind, Many Georgias On My Mind, Many Georgias On My Mind, Many Georgias On My Mind, 

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