A recent university study has shown that in the Deep Tracks library, different songs make listeners do different things. Some songs make you play air guitar, others compel you to pound out drum solos on your steering wheel, but today’s batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl is about the kind of song that makes you sing along. More specifically, it’s about two particular songs that make you sing along with the chorus. In fact there’s something about these two songs that make other singers want to sing along, which explains why they’ve been recorded so many other artists. I’m talking about Lowell George’s “Willin’” and Robbie Robertson’s “The Weight.” Two songs about travelers, as it turns out. “Willin’” is the weary trucker’s lament. Itg first appeared on Little Feat’s 1971 debut album, featuring Ry Cooder on slide guitar. The next year, they re-arranged and re-recorded it for the album Sailin’ Shoes, trading Ry Cooder’s slide for Sneaky Pete Kleinow’s pedal steel. Two years later, Linda Rondstadt recorded a version for her album Heart Like a Wheel. And four years after that Little Feat released a live version on Waiting for Columbus.
But it doesn’t matter which version you hear, when the singer gets to the part about the weed, whites, and wine, you just naturally start singing along, whether you’re in Tucson or Tucumcary. “The Weight” is about a traveler’s encounters with the characters of Nazareth, Pennsylvania, the home of Crazy Chester, Carmen, Luke, and Miss Anna Lee. The original version of “The Weight” is on Music From Big Pink. As with “Willin’” you might sing along with a verse or two, but you’ll always join in with that chorus. And so it’s during the choruses of the two songs that we’ll do some fun hand mixing. Before we’re done, we’ll hear these two songs broken into eight parts and performed by six bands. And then a seventh band will do the entire song (“The Weight”) in a whole new way. But before we do any of that, we’re gonna start with a quintessential example of mystical cosmic hippie folk rock from a guy who gave guitar lessons to Joni Mitchell. From his album Collaboration, here’s Shawn Phillips.
|Linda Rondstadt||When Will I Be Loved?|
|Jesse Winchester||Isn’t That So?|
|Linda Rondstadt||Willin’ (part 1)|
|Little Feat||Willin’ (part 2)|
|Linda Rondstadt||Willin’ (part 3)|
|The Band||The Weight (part 1)|
|Staple Singers & Marty Stuart||The Weight (part 2)|
|Smith||The Weight (part 3)|
|The Band & Staple Singers||The Weight (part 4)|
|The Band||The Weight (part 5)|
|Joan Osborne||The Weight|
Coming in at number 41 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, that’s “The Weight” written by Robbie Robertson. We just heard a sort of hip-hop reading of the song by Joan Osborne from her album How Sweet It Is. Before that, the end of the original version from The Band’s album Music From Big Pink which is also the version we started with. In between during the famous chorus parts we handed the song off to some other folks. The second and third verses came off an album called Rhythm, Country, and Blues, which paired up various country and R&B artists, in this case Marty Stuart singing with The Staple Singers. After that, the group Smith, from the soundtrack to Easy Rider. Weirdly, the film itself featured The Band’s original version of the song but some legal issues prevented it from being on the soundtrack album, so we got the Smith’s instead.
After that, The Staple Singers again, this time with The Band. That’s from The Last Waltz album, though not from the concert itself; that was recorded on a sound stage at some other point in the proceedings. And then it was back to Big Pink for the last verse of the original version. Before that, we did the same thing to Lowell George’s “Willin’.” We started with Linda Rondstadt’s version, segued over to Little Feat’s live version, and then back to Linda for the end. At the top of the set, Shawn Phillips gave us one called “Moonshine.” We followed that with two questions: “When Will I Be Loved?” and “Isn’t That So?” by Linda Rondstadt and Jesse Winchester respectively. FYI, if you’re looking for our set lists or if you want to send me an email, drop by my website or the Way Back Studio Facebook page and knock yourself out. I’m Bill Fitzhugh, thanks for listening. And remember, if you give me weeds, whites, and wine, I’ll reserve a seat for you, right here in the Way Back Studios. I’ll be back next time with a fresh batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl and I hope you’ll join us right here in the Deep Tracks.