When Rick Danko agreed to a $125 a month rent for a house with a big basement on Stoll Road in Saugerties, he thought he was just renting a place to relax after some time on the road with Bob Dylan. Rick Danko, Richard Manuel, and Garth Hudson were enjoying some normal time after being on the road for so long as The Hawks. Woodstock's mystique and intriguing vibe along with a changing time in music helped to hone a sound that would become The Basement Tapes sessions with Dylan. The band without a name was already well known in the music world, and being called Dylan's Backing Band would only get you so far on your own. The Basement Tapes churned out songs such as This Wheel’s On Fire, Tears of Rage, I Shall Be Released, The Weight, and Chest Fever. The songs were an amalgam of soul, rock, jazz, rock, and a new simple sound to counter the psychedelic sound coming out of the UK in the form of Led Zeppelin. Americana was conceived at 2188 Stoll Road in the big pink house. The Band was born there.
In 1969, Rolling Stone referred to them as the band from Big Pink. And then name that Robbie Robertson suggested finally stuck and The Band was officially born. The aura of that summer and that time is captured in Music From Big Pink. Levon Helm's return to the band solidified the powerhouse.
While Tears of Rage, This Wheel's on Fire, and I Shall Be Released were written by Dylan, The Band was able to showcase their own song writing ability. Also showcased was their range in vocal talent as each member took a turn at the lead vocals. No, it wasn't perfect. Their voices were straining, but their intentions were pure.
One cannot deny the historic impact this album would have on rock and music history. If you don't believe me, believe Eric Clapton and George Harrison. It is told that Clapton disbanded Cream when he heard Music from Big Pink to create something more authentic. And in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction of The Band, he admitted going to Woodstock to ask to join them - but he never did. Harrison and the other Beatles also appreciated the simple and pure sound enough so that...well just listen to The White Album.
Fifty years ago, our music became more simple but more complex. The lyrics were true and well thought. The sound, a composite of the roots for Americana. The Band was catapulted to their proper place outside of Dylan's backing band and into their own realm. Music from Big Pink is a fundamental rock album.