Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band

James and I finally got to watch "Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band." I had wanted to see it in the theater, but that was then.

I've loved The Band since I was 14. I've read every book, listened to every box set, and reissue.

I won't be picky, instead I'll take smug pride in the fact that a documentary has been made that validates my good taste in music!

A few thoughts - the guys in The Band joined Ronnie Hawkins as teenagers because, I'm assuming they were young, willing, and inexpensive. They all came from musical families and began playing in public at the age of 12 or 13.  So, yeah, they could play also.

Then they left home in their mid- to late teens and toured and practiced constantly for the next five to seven years. They got really good. They didn't make a lot of money, but that circuit existed. I don't think that is even possible now. I think that made it possible for them to reach the musical heights they did.

But what did their parents think? Would parents today let their kids drop out of school to join a touring band? Or maybe they had already dropped out. Maybe music was better than any other opportunity. But when you go back and listen to "Tears of Rage," the first song on their first album, it is the voice of parent lamenting the loss of a child who has gone off to "receive that false instruction." Dylan wrote the lyrics, and he was starting his own family at that time. Clearly the guys in The Band felt that break in their families as well.

The Band was always an ideal for me - a kind of rock and roll monasticism. It really hurt when I learned that there was also a fall from grace of Old Testament proportions going on in parallel. In case you missed that connection, listen to the second song, "To Kingdom Come," and listen to Robbie sing about looking out the window and seeing the golden calf pointing back at him.

The real tragedy is the lack of resolution. Robbie is trying. What else can he do? 

As for me, I've been listening to The Band a lot lately with James. He is about the same age as I was when I got obsessed with The Band. There is a lot to talk about.

And I wish I could tell Robbie, "Hey, we ALL mess up. I know I threw your book in the trash. The only book I've ever thrown in the trash. I'm sick your self-mythologizing, but I get where you are coming from. We all try to explain our faults away. You created some beautiful music. Not many people can say that." 

 

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