The Band – “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”, “Up On Cripple Creek” And “The Weight”

One of the most memorable songs of the Seventies for me was actually written shortly before the decade began: “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”, by Bob Dylan’s Canadian backing group The Band.

The song, written by Robbie Robertson and sung by Levon Helm (though he aparently claims to have contributed to the lyrics), was covered by Joan Baez in 1971 and reached No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100. This was the version I initially knew.

From the same album, “The Band”, came the track “Up On Cripple Creek”, which I have always liked. I only heard it for the first time some time in the Seventies

Another song by The Band that I got to know in the Seventies was also written around the same time, it was called “The Weight”.

Actually it was on the previous album, “Music From Big Pink”, which I picked up some time in the late Seventies. The album title referred to a big pink house The Band used to record in.

This version of “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” is taken from the farewell concert (and film) “The Last Waltz” in 1978:

I thought I’d also include this studio version of “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”, where the chorus sounds more like what I was familiar with, followed by the lyrics:

Virgil Caine is the name, and I served on the Danville train,
Til Stoneman’s cavalry came and tore up the tracks again.
In the winter of ’65, we were hungry, just barely alive.
By May tenth, Richmond had fell, it’s a time I remember, oh so well.

The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, when all the bells were ringing,
The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, and all the people were singin’. They went,
Na, Na, Na, Na, Na, Na, Na, Na,
Na, Na, Na, Na, Na, Na,
Na, Na, Na,

Back with my wife in Tennessee, when one day she called to me,
Said “Virgil, quick, come and see, there goes the Robert E. Lee!”
Now I don’t mind choppin’ wood, and I don’t care if the money’s no good.
Ya take what ya need and ya leave the rest,
But they should never have taken the very best.

The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, when all the bells were ringing,
The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, and all the people were singin’. They went,
Na, Na, Na, Na, Na, Na, Na, Na,
Na, Na, Na, Na, Na, Na,
Na, Na, Na,

Like my father before me, I will work the land,
And like my brother above me, who took a rebel stand.
He was just eighteen, proud and brave, But a Yankee laid him in his grave,
And I swear by the mud below my feet,
You can’t raise a Caine back up when he’s in defeat.

The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, when all the bells were ringing,
The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, and all the people were singin’. They went,
Na, Na, Na, Na, Na, Na, Na, Na,
Na, Na, Na, Na, Na, Na,
Na, Na, Na,

The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, when all the bells were ringing,
The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, and all the people were singin’. They went,
Na, Na, Na, Na, Na, Na, Na, Na,
Na, Na, Na, Na, Na, Na,
Na, Na, Na.

And now, here’s “Up On Cripple Creek”:

This rendition of “The Weight”, which also featured in the movie “Easy Rider”, also comes from the 1978 concert and film “The Last Waltz”:

Whatever way you look at it, The Band played powerful music. It was powerful in the Seventies and it’s still powerful today.

Paul

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