In 1968 the Band came on the scene with their biggest hit, “The Weight.” The song only ever reached #63 on the American pop charts that year, but it changed pop music forever. Within only one year covers by Aretha Franklin, The Temptations with the Supremes, and Jackie DeShannon were also getting significant radio time.
“The Weight” mentions the town of Nazareth (Pennsylvania) because that’s where Martin Guitars are made. The characters in the song, however, were taken from the lives of various band members and were based on real people. The song may not have been the biggest hit at the time, but has since become one of the most well-known songs of the era and has influenced a host of artists. In 1976 the Band held one last grand concert at the Winterland Ballroom and the resulting footage was used for the documentary The Last Waltz, though they did later reunite for subsequent tours. Have a look at the stunning 1976 live performance of “The Weight,” with vocals from the incomparable Mavis Staples, in the video below.