This week, we were rehearsing the song “The Weight” with Revv52.
The song is rich with history. Released in ’68 by the Band and written by Canadian Robbie Robertson, the song is listed #41 on Rolling Stone’s 500 of the Greatest Songs of All Time. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame named it one of the 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. It’s been described as “a masterpiece of Biblical allusions, enigmatic lines and iconic characters”. (Quick Hits 2012)
Here’s the point … When a member of Revv52 asked his old time friend, Jeff Carlile, (a real music aficionado from Memphis) about the song, here’s his reply. Listen to the rhythm of Jeff’s language and the depth of his understanding about the song. This is over-the-top!
“The Weight was significant for so many reasons, not least of which is it a brilliant bit of writing. Musically, it fit them so well since it came from all of them. Lyrically, I mean, how do you make the journey from the cotton fields of Arkansas to the pinnacle of music (Memphis), to the Holy Land, a religious allegory – wrapped in rock music – and it is not stiff or distant in any way … just brilliant.
You could imagine the heat beating down on you, as you trudge the cotton rows, draggin’ that 100 pound sack behind you as you jab your raw fingers into the dry petals of the cotton bolls – Grab, Twist Yank – Jab, Twist, Yank – Jab, Twist, Yank – four or five times a second using both hands, stooped over like you been since before dawn and now it coming on 4:53 in the afternoon and the sun still ain’t low and there you are a growed-ass man standin’ every bit of 5’10 and ain’t never in your life been more than 158 pounds soakin’ wet. Damn, it’s some kinda hot. Your sack is sinking low? Dang right your sack is sinking low!
The first line, ‘I pulled into Nazareth’ creates inescapable texts: ‘pulled in’, country licks, travel, elbow room, and long highways ‘to Nazareth’. Bibilical. The home of the Saviour. The place of Pilgrimage. ‘Cept it ain’t that Nazareth. Or is it?
Are you kidding me? It’s rock and roll with a nod to Bob Dylan, and poetry, and folk roots.
‘Feeling just about half past dead.’ Tired. Hungry. Hon-gry! Ain’t eat since Jerusalem hungry.
‘Just need to find a place, where I can lay my head.’ If you ain’t thinking about the Christ child, that tiny newborn infant Jesus, squirming in hay surrounded by donkey turds and the Promise of the Risen Word, then you’re a heathen and God ain’t gonna let you enjoy this song anyway so just turn around to your no count friends and talk amongst yourselves. Here, I’ll give you a topic: ‘The radical reconstruction of the South after the Civil War was neither radical nor a reconstruction. Discuss.’
You take the load (the burden, The Weight, the responsibility) off Fanny and – and – and Sweet Jesus Harmony – you put the load right on me (he ain’t heavy, he’s my brother, my cross to bear)
Then a choir! Halleluiah!
It’s a rock song! Rock and roll. Come straight up outta country!”
Now … that’s some words worth repeating. Thanks to Mr. Jeff Carlile in Memphis.