I Shall Be Released

When I was in high school and The Last Waltz appeared in theaters, it turned my head around like no music film before or since. I saw it in the movie theater no fewer than eight times. I bought every Band record I could get my paws on including a few bootlegs. I saw Rick Danko at a gymnasium in the 1980s and had the good fortune to attend a Levon Helm Midnight Ramble a few years ago. When I imagined playing the guitar, it was–and is–a Fender Telecaster or a Stratocaster because that’s what Robbie Robertson played. The same Robbie Robertson who, for my money, consistently wrote songs that spoke to me in a way that Bob Dylan’s rarely did.

Levon’s book is pretty good as rock memoirs go. But it always saddened me that he carried around such bitterness toward Robbie: songwriting credit, breaking up The Band, the death of Richard Manuel, money issues, etc. Maybe the enmity was deserved, I don’t know. But it’s heartening to sentimentalists like me to know that they had a final visit.

Requiescat in pace, Levon. Your music remains as glorious as ever.

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