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The Night They Drive Old Dixie Down

Discussion in 'Sidewinders Bar & Grille' started by guitarface, Aug 19, 2019.

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  1. guitarface

    guitarface Most Honored Senior Member

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    How have you interpreted the lyrics to this song? I’ve always struggled to figure it out in my head. I normally don’t think about lyrics too much, but this is such a great song, I’ve put a little more thought into it.
     
  2. Guy Named Sue

    Guy Named Sue I don't seem able to get it straight in my mind... Strat-Talk Supporter

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    I've read that Robbie was researching stories about civil war and that's how the lyrics got born.
     
  3. circles

    circles humaniod life form Strat-Talk Supporter

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    All I know is all the people were singin'.
     
  4. Guy Named Sue

    Guy Named Sue I don't seem able to get it straight in my mind... Strat-Talk Supporter

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    Robbie Robertson’s recollection sheds more light on the writing of the song: “There was a chord progression and a melody rumbling through my head, but I did not know yet what the song was about. I played it on the piano one day for Levon. He liked the way it stopped and started, free of tempo. I flashed back to when he first took me to meet his parents in Marvell, Arkansas, and his daddy said ‘Don’t worry, Robin – the South is going to rise again.’ I told Levon I wanted to write lyrics about the Civil War from a southern family’s point of view. ‘Don’t mention Abraham Lincoln in the lyrics’ was his only advice, ‘That won’t go down too well.’ I asked him to drive me to the Woodstock library so I could do a little research on the Confederacy. They didn’t teach that stuff in Canadian Schools. When I conjured up the story about Virgil Caine and his kin against this historical backdrop, the song came to life for me. Though I did stop and wonder, can I get away with this? You call this rock ‘n’ roll? Maybe!
     
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  5. Del1

    Del1 Senior Stratmaster

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    Robbie Robertson's a great songwriter, and he had superb vocalists and musicians to bring the songs to life.
     
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  6. Tone Deaf

    Tone Deaf Senior Stratmaster

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    Interpretation?
    A storied lament about a civilization “Gone with the Wind”.

    Collectively, The Band was right up there with the greatest musical groups.

    The Last Waltz is still one of my favorite Rock documentaries.

    As an aside,
    Does anyone here have a Robbie Robertson Strat?
     
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2019
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  7. thomquietwolf

    thomquietwolf Dr. Stratster Strat-Talk Supporter

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    Collectively, The Band was right up there with the greatest musical groups.

    YES

    The Last Waltz is still one of my favorite Rock documentaries.

    Watch it twice per anum...

    As an aside,
    Does anyone here have a Robbie Robertson Strat?


    NO...
     
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  8. tery

    tery Most Honored Senior Member Strat-Talk Supporter

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    This is what the lyrics mean .

     
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  9. brianb88

    brianb88 Strat-Talk Member

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    That's really interesting and something I had not read before. The Band is one of my all-time favorites and wow did they ever have some talent in that group.

     
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  10. circles

    circles humaniod life form Strat-Talk Supporter

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    Good. Now someone please explain The Weight.
     
  11. Guy Named Sue

    Guy Named Sue I don't seem able to get it straight in my mind... Strat-Talk Supporter

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    The song does have its inaccuracies in date and name/place etc but it's written by an outsider, Robbie. And he wrote it after reading history books.

    Joan baez who made the song famous at the time by her acoustic version misheard Robbie and sang some parts wrong. The song goes "By May 10th Richmond had fell", Baez sang "I took the train to Richmond that fell"
     
  12. RaySachs

    RaySachs Senior Stratmaster Strat-Talk Supporter

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    When I started singing and playing this song, I was pretty curious about it's meaning(s) as well. Wasn't sure I felt right about singing (even in the privacy of my own home) anything that took a pro-South, pro-slavery position on the Civil War. (I can't bring myself to sing Under My Thumb or Stray Cat Blues anymore even though I love both as music, but I can't get the lyrics past my lips - sorry if that's too PC for anyone, but I just can't). I found a number of sites that discussed it (and other Robbie Robertson songs) and then I found the most exhaustive discussion of a set of lyrics I think I've ever seen anywhere on any song. Bottom line, I play and sing the song without concern - it's from the perspective of a poor southern family that suffered for the war and lost a son/brother too it, but they weren't of a side per se - they were victims of the war as much as anyone (although obviously not slaves or victims of slavery). If anyone wants to wear out EVERY FREAKING DETAIL of these lyrics and every possible interpretation of every word, well, here ya go!

    http://theband.hiof.no/articles/dixie_viney.html

    -Ray
     
  13. Guy Named Sue

    Guy Named Sue I don't seem able to get it straight in my mind... Strat-Talk Supporter

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    Funny you should ask, I read this a while back on a site and copied the text to make a thread about it here but I forgot. I can try to find the site if you wish, but this explained very well what the song is about.


    A lot of people think this song is loaded with religious significance. You have a traveler who can't find a bed in Nazareth. You've got the devil, Moses, Judgment Day—clearly this is some sort of Biblically-spun parable, some modern-day Messiah turned away from the inn, dealing with temptation, redemption, and a hungry dog.

    But minor discrepancies aside (Mary and Joseph couldn't find a bed in Bethlehem, not Nazareth), Robertson and Levon Helm have said that all of the characters in the song were more real than otherworldly. (A side note about songwriting: Helm was the band's drummer, and he has suggested that many of the songs were more collaborative than Robertson acknowledged.) Nazareth was Nazareth, Pennsylvania, the home of Martin guitar; Luke was former Hawks guitarist Jimmy Ray "Luke" Paulman; Anna Lee was an old friend from Turkey Scratch; and Crazy Chester was the cap-gun toting self-appointed sheriff of Fayetteville.

    This does not mean, however, that the song is devoid of religious meaning. In fact, Robertson has said the song is about the "impossibility of sainthood." But he took his inspiration less from the Bible than from Luis Buñuel, the Spanish filmmaker and master of surrealism who, for half a century, poked fun at the hypocrisies of religion, patriarchy, and middle-class culture.

    Robertson was intrigued, in particular, by films like Nazarín (1959) and Viridiana (1961), which deal with people who try, but find it impossible, to do good. "The Weight," Robertson says, explores the same theme. "Someone says, 'Listen, would you do me this favour? When you get there will you say "hello" to somebody or will you give somebody this or will you pick up one of these for me?' . . . So the guy goes and one thing leads to another and it's like 'Holy s--t, what's this turned into? I've only come here to say "hello" for somebody and I've got myself in this incredible predicament.'"

    From its very conception, then, "The Weight" taps into both the spiritual and the real. It chronicles the increasingly complex trip of a sainthood-seeking errand boy—a do-gooder pilgrim who finds his progress hindered by a cast of curious characters. But these characters were pulled from the streets of Fayetteville and Turkey Scratch, not from the New Testament. The temptations, complications, and growing burdens of the narrator's errand were proffered not by visitors from the other side, but from the common-yet-fantastic characters who walk life's very real streets.

    Inspired by Buñuel but populated by Arkansans, the song is most simply about the burdens we all carry. The "weight" is the load that we shoulder when we take on responsibility or when we try to do good. But it's also the heaviness that presses down on us when we fall into "sin" or wrestle with "temptation." It's a song about a universally human dilemma. But, just as the writers drew from their own pasts in fleshing out their cast, it's conceivable that they also drew from their own experiences in conceptualizing the "weight." Perhaps the song refers to the very real loads shouldered by Band members, the very real burdens that resulted from the good and the bad in their own lives.

    Some Band hardliners argue, for example, that "weight" refers to the uncomfortable price paid by the band members for their wild days on the road. In this analysis, which we think is, um... a bit strained, weight means load, which means dose, which means venereal disease. Adding further grit to this interpretation is the fact that "fanny" is British slang for female genitalia. "Take the load off Fanny," in other words, would mean just the opposite of doing a favor for a friend.

    A second and more reasonable analysis hovers around The Band's association with notorious groupie Cathy Evelyn Smith. Years before she hooked up with John Belushi, and even longer before she administered the Saturday Night Live legend a fatal dose of heroine, she traveled with The Hawks-turned-Band. Only sixteen when she met them in Ontario in 1963, she soon became pregnant. She was certain that Levon Helm was the father, but it was Richard Manuel who stood up and offered to share the burden of the pregnancy.

    None of The Band has ever cited this episode in explaining "The Weight," and Robertson never alluded to the more personal possibilities crowding the streets of Nazareth. But there is a certain Buñuel quality to the Smith story: it's a coarse, all too human situation that defies easy categorization in terms of good and bad.

    More on Luis Buñuel

    In the classic Buñuel film Nazarín (1959), Nazario, a dedicated priest, is forced to take flight after befriending Andara and Beatriz, a knife-wielding prostitute and her psychotic sister (not exactly the kind of subject material you find in most 1950s American films…). Nazario's attempt to do good has forced him to the road, but everywhere he goes he stirs up trouble—violence, superstition, jealousy. By the end of the film, Nazario has been beaten and imprisoned, and he suffers from a crisis of faith captured succinctly by his chronically criminal cellmate: "Look at me, I only do evil... But what use is your own life really? You're on the side of good and I'm on the side of evil. And neither of us is any use for anything."

    Nazario is shattered by this devastatingly accurate summation. Still, the tiniest shred of hope lies in the hint that Nazario has touched, albeit imperfectly and perhaps only temporarily, at least one life. Beatriz struggles with her feelings for Nazario. Hoping they are pure but fearing they are carnal, she ultimately is thrown into another psychotic frenzy and back into the clutches of her abusive husband. But at one point, she reaches out to the cursed priest and offers to take on his burdens: "If I can carry your load on my back, I will."

    It may be a bit too tidy to say that this is where "The Weight" found its inspiration. But it really doesn't matter. This song is more about the mess of life than the neatness; it's about the trials that come with trying to do good, the burdens that accompany acts of kindness and the kindness that, sometimes, flows weirdly out of sin. Life takes a toll, and a simple trip into Nazareth may leave a person's bag "sinkin' low." The closest thing to hope, the closest thing to any sort of redemption, lies less in absolute clarification or relief than in the occasional extension of a helping hand. "Take the load off, Fanny (or maybe Annie), and put the load right on me."
     
  14. Ferpie

    Ferpie Strat-O-Master

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    May I YouTube it and hear it for the first time please?
    This rock is getting heavy...
     
  15. Bob the builder

    Bob the builder Senior Stratmaster

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    Shrooms
     
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  16. Ferpie

    Ferpie Strat-O-Master

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    Good now let me Google a way to get rid of freakin ear worms
     
  17. fretWalkr

    fretWalkr Strat-Talk Member

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    She also got the line wrong "'til so much cavalry came...." instead of "'til Stoneman's cavalry came." Pretty minor thing but it irks me every time I hear her version.
     
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  18. Namelyguitar

    Namelyguitar Most Honored Senior Member Strat-Talk Supporter

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    Robbie the Canadian, yeah!

    @Guy Named Sue - longest post EVER on ST, and not one link! ;)
     
  19. T Bone Slort

    T Bone Slort "I have a cunning plan" Strat-Talk Supporter

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    Well as long as Jack the dog gets feed, I'm good! :D

    Great post Guy Named Sue
     
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  20. Lonn

    Lonn Mod Admin Staff Member Strat-Talk Supporter

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    Very informative but I'm going to lock this before someone gets stupid, and we all know someone will.
     
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