Band – The Last Waltz

Happy Thanksgiving! Watching The Last Waltz is just as part of Thanksgiving as the meal with the family…that and Alice’s Restaurant which is coming.

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 a 35-millimeter camera 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), 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… 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.

The complete concert is at the bottom…without cuts.

Author: Badfinger (Max)

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

27 thoughts on “Band – The Last Waltz”

  1. I guess I should relate this concert with Thanksgiving, but I never have before. Not wanting to go off target here, but I watched that Netflix Creedence Travelin Band documentary last night and found it enjoyable.

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  2. Nice reminder of a great movie, although I think there was prior connection but still not many artists could get the likes of MS and Bill Graham to do your farewell gig. I too never connected this to thanksgiving. Have a great one my American friends!

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  3. Hi Max

    Just to say I may be absent from Comments these next few days. My laptop is goosed and I’ll either have to admit it to Laptop Hospital or get a new one!

    Will be back on it in a few days!

    COLIN ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE 70S

    Hide quoted text

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    1. Been there done that! It’s usually cheaper to buy one unless you get a top end model. Good luck and I’ll see you when you get back!

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  4. The Band were a finely honed unit there. So many great songs-‘Ophelia’ tends to get overlooked- but there are so many fine performances there. And on another note, after seeing that movie and walking to the car my starry-eyed wife opined that ‘that Robbie Robertson is one fine looking song writer.’ Hmmm. That I and my male ego did not really want to hear!

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  5. You know, if it isn’t the greatest concert movie ever made, it’s in the top 10 for sure. I also like the David Byrne et al Stop Making Sense film, and of course Bangla Desh benefit concert. I got a copy of the big book that Scorcese put together and gave Robbie, along with the concert DVD and the music discs. I cherish it. You may get me to make it an annual Tgiving event.

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    1. It’s worth the Thanksgiving viewing…my media Thanksgiving is… The Peanuts Thanksgiving, Last Waltz, Arlo’s Alice’s Restaurant, and Planes Trains and Automobiles.

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  6. Now that is a strange, but great family tradition. If there is one movie about rock music ever made, then that is the one. I’ve watched it maybe three times and pick up on new things each time. Great post. Have a warm, wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving day. Oh yeah, good luck finding Charlie Browns Thanksgiving since Disney purchased it. I miss the old 4 channel days at times.

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    1. Same with you Phil with you and your family in the heart of Texas!
      It is a great one and I would say the best. Thanks also for the info on the Pirate radio…I want to do a post about the different stations.

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  7. A true concert film classic I haven’t watched in many years. With current visitors who are staying until Saturday, I’m not sure I’ll get to it anytime soon. It’s also quite a time commitment. That said, the music in that picture is really fantastic!

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    1. I’ve seen parts of that but not all… Garth Hudson looks so bad everytime I see him…thats terrible about his wife. Robbie seems in pretty good health

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  8. Was just talking family rituals with our daughter (Princess Falda). Cool one Max. I could get into that one. Ive probably watched this film the most (along with Good Bad Ugly, Wild Bunch, River Kwia and a couple others)of any others. Not aa baad note. When I left doing CB, this is one I didnt get to. Like Ray Davies said “Top of the Pops”. Went to see it when it first came out. Still get a rush from it.

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