1001 Songs Challenge #267: The Weight (1968)
On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenging of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.
My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.
I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.
So long as I post everyday (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be…
The Band – The Weight (1968)
We had a US-Canadian combo yesterday, dear reader, and today we are sampling a taste of Canada alone. Our guests today are The Band who went through various name changes. They initially provided support to Bob Dylan on tour but when deciding to pursue their own path they considered what their name should be. Dylan had toured with them just as “The Band” and the name stuck. In 1968 The Band released The Weight which didn’t exactly set the charts on fire but it would prove to be a song that endured and 1001 Songs has deemed it a suitable addition to our list.
The Weight is the story of a man who travels to the town of Nazareth, said to be based on the place of the same name in Pennsylvania. In the song, the narrator comes to the town and finds nowhere to sleep that night. What he does find is a plethora of individuals who all beseech him for both his time and for his help with one problem or another. In the chorus, the narrator addresses someone named Fanny and asks them to unburden themselves of their constraints – the “weight” of the title – for him to take on but in Nazareth this guy finds that his load is not lessened, rather augmented. In the end he decides to return to the elusive Fanny. This could suggest a lover back home and a quarrel he has fled to Nazareth from. A more vulgar interpretation I read is that Fanny is reference to the clap (gonorrhea) which may or may not be a joke. I prefer the suggestion of a traveller carrying the weight of a burden and only finding extra responsibility in Nazareth. He states Fanny has sent him to the town and now he returns to her to presumably rid himself of this weight. The song also has potential Biblical references throughout and could be argued as a spiritual journey of sorts, perhaps in the futile pursuit of sainthood.
The Band are another group I know only through this one song. For shame. I first became familiar with this track in the 2002 film, Igby Goes Down, which is worth a look if you haven’t seen it. The song features towards the end of the film as resolutions of sorts come into play for the characters but I won’t spoil the story for you. The Weight is an epic track with five carefully written but pretty ambiguous verses. It’s open to interpretation on what the whole thing is really about but what isn’t in dispute is what a great track it is. The original line up of The Band ended in 1977 but most members would resume touring together in the 1980s, eventually bringing down the curtain on their careers in 1999 but this song is still celebrated to this day.
Favourite songs so far:
The Animals – House of the Rising Sun (1964)
Simon & Garfunkel – The Sounds of Silence (1965)
The Who – Substitute (1966)
The Rolling Stones – Paint It Black (1966)
The Beach Boys – God Only Knows (1966)
The Doors – The End (1967)
The Kinks – Waterloo Sunset (1967)
The Beatles – A Day in the Life (1967)
Procol Harum – A Whiter Shade of Pale (1967)
The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Voodoo Child (Slight Return) (1968)