The photo that graces the cover of “The Band” is surely one of the most iconic photos of an American band that was ever taken. The sepia-toned image of Richard, Levon, Rick, Garth and Robbie is ageless – it could be 1869 or 1969.
More than anything, though, it virtually screams that the men in the photo are close with one another. The Band was a band, in just about every sense of the word, which makes it all the more upsetting to learn that they fell out with one another rather quickly after this album was completed. Of course, the reason was money.
Robbie Robertson ensured that he was credited for writing every song on this album (and virtually all songs on the other Band albums as well), with the others getting only occasional co-credits for their efforts. While it may (or may not) be technically true that Robertson deserved so much credit, it is also impossible to imagine how any of these songs would have had even one-tenth of their value had it not been for the input, singing and personalities of Levon, Richard, Rick and Garth.
It is the BAND that brings these songs to life, but if they were a real band, like the one portrayed in the cover photo, where the members are like brothers, the proceeds would have been fairly distributed. As a drummer, I say these words from experience. If the band rehearses, records, travels, eats, and LIVES, together, then they should earn similar recompense. It is never fair for one member to become rich while others scrape by. Levon Helm was likely ‘The Face’ of Americana, and yet he joined The Last Hombres (the same band I joined years later, replacing him) because he liked the music, but also because he needed to make some money. Would that ever have happened if he earned his worth when he was world famous? I only say this as a warning to other musicians so they don’t suffer a fate similar to Richard, Levon and the others. If you are a band, then be one.
September 1969 – Billboard Charted #9
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