Band – King Harvest  (Has Surely Come) ….Canadian Week

Power Pop Friday will be back next week. Thank you for tuning in this week as we talked about these great Canadian artists…I’ve had a blast with them. There is one band that I didn’t get to cover because I ran out of days…well actually more…but Blue Rodeo will be coming up soon on a Friday. 

The Band is my favorite Canadian export. Well, I will say Canadian although one member…Levon Helm was from Arkansas but the rest are Canadians. CB mentioned this song not long ago so I used it after listening to it again. It is quite a complex song. I can’t believe I’ve never posted it but better late than never.

The Band was so rootsy… They had it all – rawness, competence, sublimity, experience, originality, and roots. The five different instruments were not five different instruments…they were one. In the liner notes to one of their greatest hits it states… the music is unusually complex, making use of odd verse patterns and tricky rhythmic suspensions and modifying the natural sounds of instruments for various calculated effects. But because of the way the record sounds, none of this calls attention to itself…it sounds effortless.

Robertson said he’d been immersed in the novels of John Steinbeck at this time. I’ve read where The Grapes of Wrath is a big influence on this song. Rock critic Greil Marcus has written that King Harvest might be the finest song that Robertson has ever written. The song is told from the point of view of a poverty-stricken farmer- detailing everything that has happened to his farm- then a union organizer appears and makes promises that things will soon improve.

Richard Manuel is the singer of King Harvest. King Harvest is a great finishing track to one of the greatest albums ever made. The album was their second album called The Band (The Brown Album). The album peaked at #2 in Canada, #9 on the Billboard 100 in 1970. This is their highest-charting album in their home country.

The song is credited solely to guitarist Robbie Robertson, although drummer-singer Levon Helm claimed that “King Harvest” was a group effort. It’s been covered by Blue Rodeo, Bruce Hornsby, and many more.

Robbie Robertson: “It’s just a kind of character study in a time period. At the beginning, when the unions came in, they were a saving grace, a way of fighting the big money people, and they affected everybody from the people that worked in the big cities all the way around to the farm people. It’s ironic now, because now so much of it is like gangsters, assassinations, power, greed, insanity. I just thought it was incredible how it started and how it ended up.”

Robbie Robertson: In the story to me, it’s another piece I remember from my youth, that people looking forward, people out there in the country somewhere, in a place … we all know it, may have been there, may have not … but there’s a lot of people that the idea of come Autumn, come Fall, that’s when life begins. It is not the Springtime where we kinda think it begins. It is the Fall, because the harvests come in.

Levon Helm: Some of the lyrics came out of a discussion we had one night about the times we’d seen and all had in common. It was an expression of feeling that came from five people. The group wanted to do one song that took in everything we could muster about life at that moment in time. It was the last thing we cut in California, and it was that magical feeling of ‘King Harvest’ that pulled us through. It was like, there, that’s The Band.

King Harvest (Has Surely Come)

Corn in the fields
Listen to the rice when the wind blows ‘cross the water
King Harvest has surely come

I work for the union ’cause she’s so good to me
And I’m bound to come out on top
That’s where she said I should be
I will hear every word the boss may say
For he’s the one who hands me down my pay
Looks like this time I’m gonna get to stay
I’m a union man, now, all the way

The smell of the leaves
From the magnolia trees in the meadow
King Harvest has surely come

Dry summer, then comes fall
Which I depend on most of all
Hey, rainmaker, can’t you hear the call?
Please let these crops grow tall

Long enough I’ve been up on Skid Row
And it’s plain to see, I’ve nothing to show
I’m glad to pay those union dues
Just don’t judge me by my shoes

Scarecrow and a yellow moon
And pretty soon a carnival on the edge of town
King Harvest has surely come

Last year, this time, wasn’t no joke
My whole barn went up in smoke
Our horse Jethro, well he went mad
And I can’t remember things bein’ that bad

Then there comes a man with a paper and a pen
Tellin’ us our hard times are about to end
And then, if they don’t give us what we like
He said, “men, that’s when you gotta go on strike”

Corn in the fields
Listen to the rice when the wind blows ‘cross the water
King Harvest has surely come