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Intro

"The Weight." It's one of rock's most thoroughly American songs, with deep roots in the country and gospel music of the South – but it was recorded by four Canadians and a guy from Arkansas.

It's The Band's signature song – but cover versions by Aretha Franklin, Jackie DeShannon, and The Supremes and The Temptations all did better on the charts.

It's loaded with Biblical references and has generated tons of religion-based analysis – but guitarist Robbie Robertson says he was actually inspired by a Spanish surrealist filmmaker, and vocalist/drummer Levon Helm says that the song is just about a bunch of old friends from Turkey Scratch and Fayetteville.

Everyone knows the chorus – but few would bet their life on the song's most troubling question: is it Annie or Fanny that's getting rid of her load?

"The Weight." It's time we figured this song out.

About the Song

ArtistThe Band Musician(s)Levon Helm (lead vocals, drums), Rick Danko (lead vocals, bass), Richard Manuel (back vocals, Hammond organ), Robbie Robertson (acoustic guitar), Garth Hudson (piano)
AlbumMusic from Big Pink
Year1968
LabelCapitol
Writer(s)Robbie Robertson
Producer(s)John Simon
Learn to play: Tablature
Buy this song: Amazon iTunes
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Shmoop Connections

Explore the ways this song connects with the world and with other topics on Shmoop
In some ways, The Band was a product of the 1960s, the decade that shaped the lives of its members and the music they played. But in other ways, The Band was not a typical 1960s group. Their fusion of Southern country, gospel, and rock set them apart and inspired many of the artists who followed.

The Band's biggest hit, "The Weight," was also both of and not of its own time. It explored the kinds of challenges faced by would-be saints that have troubled writers from Bunyan to Ignatius to Milton, The Band brought this kind of story into their own world, and tracked their pilgrim's progress through the streets of a twentieth-century Pennsylvania town.

On the Charts

The song reached #63 on the American charts and #35 in Canada. Aretha Franklin's 1969 cover reached #19 in the US and #12 in Canada.

Rolling Stone's list of 500 Greatest Songs puts the song at #41.
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