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The Band - The Last Waltz

On April 7, 1978, "The Band"'s album "The Last Waltz" was released.


This is probably the greatest tribute show we are familiar with in musical history.


Not "big" in terms of sales. Nor "big" in terms of the number of spectators or the number of artists that play in it, but definitely the biggest in terms of concept and production.


And what does that mean? In all the tribute performances we know the artists and artists perform songs of themselves or of the artist who's the subject of the tribute.


In contrast, in this show, something completely different happened. "The Band" - joined each of the guest artists in songs by the same artist. To do this, "The Band" had to adapt itself, adapt its style, change the settings, the arrangements, and even the music scale to suit the singing of the specific artist it accompanied.


It is also one of the great live albums, which was also filmed and directed by Martin Scorsese, and was later crowned one of the greatest documentaries of all time.


This immortal performance was held at the "Winterland Ballroom" in San Francisco on the eve of Thanksgiving on November 25, 1976.


As the name of the album, this show was intended to be a farewell show of the band and in honor of the event "the band" hosted on stage artists and members of the world music world from those years, including: Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Muddy Waters, Neil Diamond, Ringo Starr and more and more.


Here are some interesting facts about this amazing show and the masterpiece album and movie that accompanied it:


1. The timing of the show on "Thanksgiving" Eve was not accidental. This show is literally held like "The Last Supper." Ticket buyers were invited to a "royal dinner" held before the show and paid a price five times higher than the ticket prices that were customary at the time. They arrived dressed accordingly and dined to the sounds of a waltz playing in the background and dancers appearing before them.


2. As a surprise element, ticket buyers were unaware of the magnitude of the artists who will be featured in the show. It was simply written On the tickets that the performance is by "The Band" and Friends: "Bill Graham presents The Last Waltz: The Band and Friends".


3. The room where the guest artists waited for the performance was not a "Green Room" but a "White Room" - it was decorated in white and "white powder" (cocaine) was distributed on the tables in abundance.


4. This was the first time director Martin Scorsese agreed to work on a documentary covering a performance. This was on Robbie Robertson's personal request from Scorsese, just six weeks before the show.


5. The photography team of the show will include famous filmmakers, such as: Michael Chapman ("Taxi Driver" and "the Raging Bull"), and Vilmos Zsigmond ("Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and "The Deer Hunter"), and more.


6. Scorsese received permission from Bill Graham the hall owner and show producer, to dig into the floor of the hall and build a tower on which stood Vilmos Zsigmond and his camera.


7. To design the hall, Scorsese used chandeliers that were used in the masterpiece movie "Gone with the Wind."


8. During the preparations for the filming of the show, Scorsese worked simultaneously on the film "New York, New York".


9. Scorsese intentionally did not photograph the audience. He wanted the audience to concentrate on the show and not the cameras. In addition, he thought that after "Woodstock" had given such great coverage to the audience, it was no longer of interest to anyone.


Just fifteen minutes before the show Bob Dylan arrived and announced that he was not interested in attending the show. He feared it would clash with another of his films that were supposed to come out at the time, called "Renaldo & Clara".

(Photo: Courtesy of MGM)


11. Eventually the show's producer Bill Graham, managed to convince him to come up and play, but Dylan's condition was that only his last two songs will be filmed, and indeed during the performance of the first songs the cameras were not directed to the stage.


12. Drummer Levon Helm did not want Neil Diamond among the guests, he thought he did not fit the style of the other guests. Robertson brought him in only because he produced his album "Beautiful Noise" and co-wrote the song "Dry Your Eyes", which was also performed on the show.


13. Apparently Neil Young also thought like Levon Helm, because he introduced himself to Neil Diamond behind the stage like this: "Nice to meet you. I'm Neil Sedaka".


14. Neil Young's manager refused to include the song "Helpless" in the film. The reason, there was white cocaine powder on one of Neil Young's nostrils. The song was eventually included in the film after Scorsese did magic and managed to blur the grain.

15. The filming of the Muddy Waters songs was almost missed. Scorsese thought the show was over and ordered the photographers to turn off the cameras. One rebellious photographer who did not wear the headphones continued to shoot so this part of the film includes only one angle of photography.


16. Another story about Muddy Waters. The number of artists at the show was so large that they considered giving up Muddy Waters' show. Drummer Levon Helm insisted and threatened not to play and Waters eventually came up.


17. One of the most amazing parts of the show was during Eric Clapton's first solo in the song "Further on Up the Road", when his guitar strap came off. At that moment Clapton looked at Robbie Robertson and said "Rob!" And Robertson just continued the solo without missing a note.


18. Levon Helm and the other members of "The Band" did not like the film. They thought Robbie Robertson got too much focus.


19. The last song played at the show was "I Shall Be Released" in which all the members of "The Band" and the guests were on stage.


20. After the last song some of the friends and guests went up on stage for a jam and improvised session. Stephen Stills who was not part of the show and arrived late to the hall, attended only the second Jam Session.


21. At the end of the jams, "The Band" was back on stage at 2:15 AM for one last song - "Don't Do It". This was the last time "The Band" performed in its classical lineup.

(Photo: Steve Gladstone and Brian D. Hardin)


22. This song was the one with which Scorsese decided to open the film with and from there we go back in a flashback to the beginning of the evening.


23. It's a song by Marvin Gaye that "The Band" performed a cover version of and chose to end the evening with.


24. During the editing work of the film, Robertson became very friendly with Scorsese. This has resulted in their further collaborations in the future, including in Scorsese's films like "The Raging Bull", The Color of Money, and more.


25. It was not the last show of "The Band". This's just Robertson's last show with them. "The Band" has continued to perform since 1983 without him.


For listening to the album in its deluxe version: Spotify, Apple Music.


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