10 Essential Songs By The Band

10 Essential Songs By The Band

Photo: Heinrich Klaffs [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]

Our 10 Essential Songs By The Band List takes a look at one of the most loved groups to come out of the classic rock era. The origins of The Band began in the Toronto Ontario area. Members of the group The Band originally worked as musicians in a band called the Hawks that was basically Ronnie Hawkins backup band. Members of the group would eventually form their own group entitled Levon and the Hawks. The group’s musicianship was noticed by many people in the industry. They were hired by Bob Dylan to back him up on his 1965-66 world tour.

The group work with Bob Dylan and recorded the album the basement tapes which would not be released until 1975. The band’s debut album was released in 1968 entitled Music From The Big Pink. The Band followed up that album with the self-titled record in 1969 called The Band. That album was followed with Stage Fright in 1970, Cahoots in 1971, Moondog Matinee in 1973, Northern Lights in 1975 and Islands in 1977. During that time period they also recorded albums with Bob Dylan including The Basement Tapes, Planet Waves in 1974 and Before the Flood also in 1974

The group’s legendary break up was documented in the Martin Scorsese film The Last Waltz which was released in 1978. It was a fabulous documentary that featured some of the most famous musicians of the time including Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison  Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Dr. John, and Bob Dylan.

The group reunited in the 1990s and released three albums including Jericho in 1993, High on the Hog in 1996 and Jubilation in 1998. Our 10 Essential Songs by the Band list is a subjective look at some of the most important recordings they made throughout their musical career.

# 10 – Don’t Wait

We open our 10 Essential Songs By The Band list with the most recent songs released by the Band that will appear on this list. The great track “Don’t Wait,” was released on the Band’s final studio album entitled Jubilation . The album was released in 1988. The song appeared as the second track on the album. “Don’t Wait,” was written by Kevin Doherty and Levon Helm.

# 9 – It Makes No Difference

Continuing with our 10 Essential Band songs list we turn to the great song It Makes No Difference. The song was released on the album Northern Lights – Southern Cross. The album was released in 1975. It was the band’s sixth studio album released. The song “It Makes No Difference,” was written by Robbie Robertson. In fact, every song on the album Northern Lights – Southern Cross was written by Robbie Robertson. The lead vocal on the song “It Makes No Difference,” was performed by Rick Danko. The lineup on the album consisted of Rick Danko, Richard Manuel , Levon Helm, Garth Hudson and Robbie Robertson.

# 8 – The Moon Struck One

The Band song “The Moon Struck One,” might be the least known Band song on this 10 Essential Band songs list. The song was originally released on the album Cahoots in 1971. Cahoots was the band’s fourth studio album. “The Moon Struck One,” was issued as the B side to the single “Life Is A Carnival.” 

# 7- Rag Mama Rag

We never met a fan of The Band who did not love the classic Band song “Rag Mama Rag.” This one was indeed a fan favorite. The song “Rag Mama Rag,”was released on the album The Band in 1969. “Rag Mama Rag,” was issued as the second single from the record behind the band’s legendary track “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” “Rag Mama Rag.” was written by Robbie Robertson. 

# 6 – When I Paint My Masterpiece

This great Bob Dylan song “When I Paint My Masterpiece,” become one of The Band’s signature songs. The Band’s version of the songs was released on the groups fourth studio album entitled Cahoots. Levon Helm performed lead vocals on the track.

# 5 – The Shape I’m In

You don’t have to be a fan of The Band to know this popular Band song. The classic track “The Shape I’m In,” was released on the Band’s album entitled Stage Fright. The album was released in 1970. The song “The Shape I’m In,” was written by Robbie Robertson. Richard Manuel took care of the lead vocals on “The Shape I’m In.” One of the all time classic Band songs. From this point on it’s all big ones.

# 4 – Up On Cripple Creek

This great Band tune had a melody and groove that just soaks into your blood and stays there forever. In the number four spot on our 10 Essential songs from The Band list is the legendary Band song “Up On Cripple Creek.” The song was released on the Band’s self titled album The Band. The song “Up On Cripple Creek,” was written by Robbie Robertson. “Up On Cripple Creek,” was released as a two sided single opposite the classic Band song “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” Levon Helm sang lead vocals on the track.

# 3 – Ophelia

After this one came out, we wonder how many people named their daughters Ophelia? Probably not many. There were many other great rock songs with female names like “Michelle,” by The Beatles, “Aime,” by Pure Prairie League and so forth to utilize in naming female babies.  “Ophelia,” was released on the album Northern Lights – Southern Cross. “Ophelia,” was the lead single from the record. The album was released in 1976.

# 2 -The Weight

As we get to the top 2 spots on our Band songs list, we present two songs that both could have landed in the number one position. “The Weight,” is Levon Helm’s shining moment in the band. His vocals were to die for on this extraordinary song. “The Weight,” was released on the Band’s debut album Music from Big Pink.The song was written by Robbie Robertson.

# 1 -The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down

Hands down, this is one of the great verses and chorus in classic rock history. The transition from verse to chorus still gives us chills every time we hear it. “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” was released on the Band’s album The Band. The one two punch of Robbie Robertson as composer and Levon Helm on lead vocals celebrate The Band’s most shining moment on record.

Top 10 by The Band Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2020

Updated Jan 26, 2021

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