From 1968 through 1975, the group called The Band was one of the more well-known and significant of rock groups in the world. Their acclaim was similar to that earned by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. At one time, Bob Dylan was their employer and mentor; their music was reviewed alongside of his.
The group’s history began in 1958 when several bands began to form that later would mesh together and become known as The Band. The original band members include Rick Dankoo, Levon Helm, Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel and Robbie Robertson, all of whom later became inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The Band was signed by Capitol Records and released their first album, “Music From the Big Pink.” After that, they released a second self-titled album. Their popularity grew and they found themselves guest stars on the Ed Sullivan show. The Band released numerous albums, including music for soundtracks of movies like Coal Miner’s Daughter, Gangs of New York and Shrek. The Band broke ground with their mixture of sounds, musical idioms and the sense of unity that they projected during the turbulent 1960s and 1970s in America. Any prospect of future efforts by The Band were dashed when, in 1999, Rick Danko died in his sleep at his home in Woodstock.
The Band had many unique songs, but one of my favorites has to be “Ghost Dance” from the album entitled “Music for the Native Americans.” This song has a haunting, eerie quality which is exhibited from its opening notes. The music is powerful, as are the lyrics. It sounds like a chant. The song addresses how Native Americans have been persecuted. It argues that they will live again, even though they have had to overcome the genocide directed against them, just for being who they were. The song is beautifully sad, yet still exudes a feeling of hope.