|First posted 2/5/2021.|
Writer(s): Robbie Robertson (see lyrics here)
Released: August 8, 1968
First Charted: August 18, 1968
Peak: 63 US, 59 CB, 46 HR, 2 CL, 21 UK, 36 CN (Click for codes to singles charts.)
Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US + UK)
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 74.62 video, -- streaming
Awards: (Click on award for more details).
About the Song:
The Band started out as the backing band for Ronnie Hawkins before forming as their own entity in 1967. Comprised of four Canadians and one Americans, they came to exemplify the form of folk-rock which became known as Americana. Their debut album, Music from Big Pink, included the single “The Weight.” While the song peaked at a meager #63 on the Billboard Hot 100, it gained considerable airplay over the years on album-rock stations and has become their “best-known and most enduring recording.” AMG
The “winding, impressionistic story song [is] cut from the rural traditions of roots music – folk, country, and gospel – but re-imagined from a distinctly postmodern vantage point.” AMG It “significantly influenced American popular music,” WK something apparent as early as 1969 thanks to three covers by Aretha Franklin, Jackie DeShannon, and the Supremes with the Temptations which charted higher than the original. The song has since been covered by numerous artists including the Allman Brothers Band, the Black Crowes, Garth Brooks, the Zac Brown Band, Eric Church, Joe Cocker, John Denver, Grateful Dead, Hanson, Waylon Jennings, Mumford & Sons, Panic! At the Disco, Bruce Springsteen, Chris Stapleton, Dionne Warwick, and Weezer.
Robbie Robertson wrote the song from the first-person perspective of a Bible Belt American Southerner visiting the town of Nazareth, Pennyslvania, and checking in with some of his friend Fanny’s strange friends there. SF The characters were based on actual people the Band knew. WK Robertson said the song was inspired by Luis Buñuel, a Spanish filmmaker, known for surreal imagery and criticism of organized religion. WK
PBS described it as “a masterpiece of Biblical allusions, enigmatic lines and iconic characters” and called it “an essential part of the American songbook.” WK The song’s title “appears to concern the mounting burdens and demands of society which no one individual can reasonably shoulder.” AMG
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