Thanksgiving Tradition | The Band - The Last Waltz

Thanksgiving has always been a holiday full of traditions, from family recipes for stuffing to annual backyard football games. Musically speaking, Arlo Guthrie’s masterful anti-war, anti-establishment opus "Alice’s Restaurant," which is based on a real Thanksgiving day incident, has been a staple on classic rock radio stations for as long as I can remember. In more recent years, honoring The Band’s “farewell concert” - The Last Waltz - has become another to-go for both musicians and music fans.

The concert, which took place 37 years ago on Thanksgiving Day 1976, served as a star- studded send-off party for the iconic and influential act. Joining Levon, Robbie, Rick, Richard and Garth, was a who’s who of both their contemporaries and musicians that held a special place in their hearts. The night featured appearances from the obvious (Bob Dylan and Ronnie “The Hawk” Hawkins) to oddball (Neil Diamond). Even a Beatle showed that night too, with Ringo Starr joining in to help pay respects to an act that Eric Clapton claimed to have wanted to join after his stint in Blind Faith.

The Band returned to impresario Bill Graham’s famed Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco for the gig, the site of their very first public performance back in 1969. That night roughly 5,000 lucky fans were treated to a full Thanksgiving dinner, ballroom dancing with a soundtrack provided by the Berkeley Promenade Orchestra, which was then followed by the guest-filled concert that got underway sometime around 9:00 p.m. with the opening notes of "Up On Cripple Creek" and lasted well past 2:00 a.m. with a show closing take on "Don’t Do It."

With each viewing I seem to come away with a new favorite performance from the film, and after last night’s annual viewing of arguably the greatest rock film of all-time, it was their fiery and punchy version of the Richard Manuel-sung tune "The Shape I’m In." Let’s check it out:

Written By: Jeffrey Greenblatt

[Published on: 11/28/13]

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