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The Band Played On

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Dear Reader:

"For those of us who care . . . " That's an interesting line. Chris Dickinson uses it in her Critic's Choice concerning the Band's Park West performance [January 21]. Well Chris, since I care, I thought I'd clear up some of the inaccuracies you based your little article on. First of all, The Last Waltz was Robbie Robertson's way of severing himself from his past while making the jump to the Los Angeles fast track. The concept of the end of the Band and a final show was forced down the other four musicians' mouths; they didn't want the group to end--Robertson did. Robbie also held rights to the name of the group and withheld its use (according to Levon Helm) from the others. With the publishing he held, Robertson didn't need to perform to get by--something Helm, Danko, Manuel, & Hudson didn't share in. When these four finally wrestled the name back (in 1983), they began to tour again, thus revealing The Last Waltz for what it was: "a glittering rite of passage" (Rolling Stone review) for one Robbie Robertson. Saying that The Last Waltz was a sendoff for the Band's original guitarist is hardly historical revisionism, as Dickinson states; it accurately represents what was really going on behind the movie lights and cameras. Most people close to the group knew this to be true and the two recent books, This Wheel's on Fire and Across the Great Divide, bear it out.

I'm not sure whether Chris intended it or not, but her inference that the Band recorded Music From Big Pink and The Band at their Woodstock house is wrong. The former was recorded in New York and LA and the latter was recorded completely in LA.

Too bad Chris didn't like Jericho very much. But I can't help but laugh at people like Chris and career boy Bill Wyman. For someone to write a 300 word essay on a bunch of musicians who've played together for 35 years and have the temerity to suggest a name change moves me to offer my own advice to Chris. Instead of watching genuinely talented people perform, try writing your great American novel, or great American history, or whatever, and let this new breed of vultures feast on you. Perhaps you won't be so quick to make a fool out of yourself.

Pat Brennan

E. Hubbard

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