The Last Waltz

The Band on Thanksgiving in 1976 at the Fillmore West. The film starts off with THIS FILM MUST BE PLAYED LOUD! A cut to Rick Danko playing pool and then it then to the Band playing “Don’t Do It”…the last song they performed that night after hours of playing. Through the music and some interviews, their musical journey and influences are retraced.

This film is considered by many the best concert film ever made. It was directed by Martin Scorsese. I love the setting with the chandeliers that were from the movie Gone With The Wind. The quality of the picture is great because it was shot with 35-millimeter which wasn’t normally done with concerts.

Before the Band and guests hit the stage, Bill Graham, the promoter, served a Thanksgiving dinner to 5000 people that made up the audience with long tables with white tablecloths.

The Band’s musical guests included

Ronnie Hawkins, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Dr. John, Paul Butterfield, Van Morrison (my favorite performance of a guest), Joni Mitchell, Eric Clapton and Muddy Waters

The Staple Singers and Emmylou Harris also appear but their segments were taped later on a sound stage and not at the concert.

Robbie wanted off the road earlier and that is what the Last Waltz was all about…the last concert by The Band with a lot of musical friends. He was tired of touring and also the habits the band was picking up…the drugs and drinking. Richard Manuel, in particular, was in bad shape and needed time.

The rest of the Band supposedly agreed but a few years later all of them but Robbie started to tour as The Band again. Richard Manuel ended up hanging himself in 1986. Rick Danko passed away in 1999 at the end of a tour of a heart attack attributed to years of drug and alcohol abuse. Levon Helm died of cancer in 2012.

The Band sounded great that night and it might be the best version you will ever hear of The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.

The Last Waltz is a grand farewell to a great band and a film that I revisit at least twice a year… once always around Thanksgiving.

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

10 thoughts on “The Last Waltz”

  1. A great rock and roll concert film- yes it could be the best. I haven’t watched it in a while but yesterday was going through my DVD’s and set it aside to watch soon. I may just have to listen to the entire discography too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The first time I saw it a friend played it on a VHS tape around Thanksgiving in the 80s. I was really into Van at that time… this got me into the Band and just the whole show. I just walked into my house and my cousin was playing The Band on the Festival Express… Richard Manuel singing I Shall Be Released.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Levon had a lot to say about this in his memoir “This Wheel’s On Fire: Levon Helm and the Story of the Band.” It’s a really good read if you aren’t familiar. I like Levon, though he was maybe a bit overboard in his bitterness toward Robbie. And I agree about “The Night They Drove…” One need not be a southern sympathizer to get chills listening to it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I read Testimony by Robbie and it is great. I finally found an ebook of This Wheels On Fire. I’m with you on this. A lot of bitterness on the songwriting credits. I think Levon thought arranging a song was the same as writing…or that is the way it sounded to me. I do like Levon…without him, the Band would not have been the Band. What I look at is the albums after Robbie only have I think 2 original songs and the rest covers. The others were not that interested in writing except for Manuel and Robbie did cut them in on the publishing. According to Testimony all of them came to him one by one except Levon and wanted him to buy them out of it… It does sound legit but who knows? Robbie took the high road in his book.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The first time I saw, “The Last Waltz” was in my local art gallery’s auditorium. At the time I didn’t have a clue who The Band were and their connection to Bob Dylan (can you tell it’s been many moons ago now?). Watched it a few more times over the years here and there. Last year? or was it the year before? Robbie Robertson and Scorcese released a collectors set with all of the music from it, the film, and a reproduction of a book that Scorcese made and gave to Robbie back when, “The Last Waltz” was made. I took a deep breath, then took the plunge and bought it. I do not regret that decision. It’s an experience that, if there ever is a time machine, I will hop in and travel back to that day and be sitting front table.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What a concert/film that was… I remember I saw it right around Thanksgiving over a friends house…. that was a tradition of theirs which soon became a tradition of mine.
      That is one of the concerts I would go to no doubt. They were so genuine in their music.

      I read that the collectors set is great.

      Liked by 1 person

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