HE WOULD HAVE BEEN 67 TODAY
This Saturday marks the anniversary of the birth of multi-instrumental rock soulman Richard Manuel. As part of The Band, one of the most collectively talented groups to emerge from the 1960s, Manuel has influenced every generation of musicians working in his field, be it with his earthy, observant lyrics, blues spirit, wild drumming or stride inspired piano, or perhaps mostly with his roughhewn life and how it filtered into his music and persona. While his life ended sadly – he hanged himself in a hotel room in Florida in 1986 – his body of work remains stirringly alive and continues to prompt the best in those willing to take up the cause as he did.
Our small salute to the man begins with one of the most revered, soulful songs in rock's entire canon, a true divining rod down the deepest wells within us – "Tears of Rage," which Manuel co-wrote with Bob Dylan, not a fellow prone to working with anything but the best, and Richard was surely that.
The Band could seriously boogie, especially with Manuel at the mic and piano. Here's an expanded ensemble working away at the Manuel/Robertson ditty from Stage Fright.
Here's the audio from a vintage concert recording of one of Manuel's finest compositions.
Without Robertson, the remaining members of The Band reunited in 1983 and put on some really lovely shows. Here, Manuel tears the heart out of Dylan's immortal "I Shall Be Released" with the boys in Japan.
Bob rocks the hell out with the fellas at The Last Waltz. You really couldn't find better dudes to go electric with!
Few tributes match the depth of Jason Isbell's "Danko/Manuel," first recorded when he was part of the Drive-By Truckers, clearly one of Manuel's descendents. The song also remembers and honors fallen Band member Rick Danko.
A few final thoughts on Richard from the guys who knew him best, including some respects from Levon Helm and Eric Clapton.
We close with a song that launches people to their feet whenever it's trotted out. Only those who've been beaten and blown about by life can really sing this one with authority and integrity. Richard did just that each time he took the mic on this one.