The Band: Pioneers Of American Music


Ronnie ‘The Hawk’ Hawkins grouped them together and worked them in their early days playing in Canada; Bob Dylan used a bunch of them (at first) to “go electric” then recorded infamous tunes and toured with them later; Martin Scorsese made one of the greatest rock and roll documentaries (The Last Waltz) about them: and any group or musician now mining the field of Americana or “roots music” owes them a huge debt of gratitude. The five (original) members of the tight rock unit known as The Band, plus all that they touched is the subject of The Band: Pioneers of American Music, written by Craig Harris and one hell of a read.

Through interviews with musicians, like Eric Andersen and Pete Seeger who played with them as well as the members of the original lineup — Robbie Robertson, Levon Helm, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson — we learn about The Band’s history, along with the history of the late 50s and early 60s touring scene in both Canada and the U.S. We get pretty much the full story about Bob Dylan’s early years and him going electric (an especially interesting part of the book made very vivid indeed by Robertson’s recollections) and how a whole bunch of musicians came to decamp in Woodstock and make great music in a pink house.

Harris dissects each of The Band’s albums, the individual member’s solo releases, other’s contributions and lists songs that showed up later in various places. His research is extensive, but the overall pace through these 200 pages is breezy and entertaining. I really loved of The Band: Pioneers of American Music, but then again I love The Band. Their story surely needed to be told beyond just all that wonderful music they made. Harris tells it wonderfully.

~ Ralph Greco, Jr.

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