Saturday, May 4, 2013

Stage Fright

There are many things in rock history nearly impossible to believe. That John Lennon was not clearly the dominant musical force in the Beatles, for instance—nor was Paul McCartney. That there are people who still don't understand how staggeringly talented Elvis Presley was. That Buddy Holly was only 22 damn years old when he died. 22! The mind boggles.

But I'm not sure anything surpasses the fact that Rick Danko was only the third-best vocalist in the Band.

This guy. This guy. Wasn't even second-best. He was third.

Just does not seem possible. And yet.

(Also, yes, The Last Waltz was beautifully shot, but never more so than this song. Even for Scorsese, this is just gorgeous.)

Look, George Harrison was a fine singer...but he was very clearly not one of the two best in his group. Same with John Entwhistle and Mike Mills.

But Rick Danko? All but a small handful of top-+notch bands ever would have been pleased as punch to have him as their lead singer, and he could easily have made a very good band a top-notch one. Yet so loaded with talent was the Band that he was relegated to last place as a vocalist. (We'll ignore Robbie Robertson's blessedly rare forays into singing back then.)

The magical thing about the Band, of course, was that as musicians, they were all—including the otherwise rapacious Robertson—incredibly generous, able to step to the front and happy to fade into the back. The result, when everything aligned just so, was perfection. And never more so than on this, one of the great examples of a great band not only firing on all cylinders, but gracefully and graciously passing the ball back and forth.

Then some returned to the motherland The high command had them cast away And some stayed on to finish what they started They never parted, they're just built that way

I sometimes wonder if Robertson knew he was writing so autobiographically there.

1 comment:

  1. I really liked Robertsons "Redboy" album. Admittedly he doesn't go too far afield with his singing on that.