I have been thinking a lot about the seeming unrest in our country-the upheaval of radical factions on all sides, the disintegration of civility, the lack of respect and care for our neighbors, our fellow human beings… Every day, there are more instances-real life stories-to reveal this sorrowful state of affairs.
Before I go any further, I assure you, this blog is written to be a glimmer of hope, a silver lining on what may be clouding the state of our nation. Thanks to my father, I am a lover of music. My Dad has an incredible vinyl record collection and vintage guitar arsenal-beautiful arrays both visually and audibly. He plays a bit of guitar and harmonica; and, can sing some soul music - unfortunately, I didn’t receive any of those talents. But, I do share his love for music.
This week marks the 50th anniversary of one of his favorite band’s transcendent album, Music From Big Pink, by The Band. This music was, and is, transcendent, because it sounds timeless-it could have been recorded in 1868, 1968 or 2018. The mix of rock, Americana, blues, Zydeco, soul, gospel, bluegrass is so fitting for the messages and inspiration it offers. Recorded during the tumultuous times of 1968, with riots, assassinations and war, the album is, and always will be, anchored by the song, The Weight. As NPR Music contributor Tom Moon writes: “Think about that moment. Nobody witnessing the turmoil of 1968, at, say, the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, was waiting around for a salve like "The Weight" or, for that matter, any of the songs from Music From Big Pink. Rock was getting ever more psychedelic; something small and frail and human-scale wasn't in the realm of possibility. It came out of nowhere, this basement noise. Snuck in and took up residence without putting on airs. And it's haunting us still.”
That “salve”, as Moon describes, for me has always inspired me to think about how I view and treat others. As the song’s chorus invites, Take a load off Fanny/Take a load for free, Take a load of Fanny/And, put the load right on me. The song is marked by basic human interactions with folks in troublesome times, always with the above invitation. In other words, the song encourages us to bear another’s burden, to ease their pain, to lift them up, to take care of them. I have always wondered why The Weight was written in such cryptic language, complete with multiple scriptural references. But, since, I have changed my thinking from why, to how. And, in viewing the song in the context of the times, I see the full “weight” of its importance.
In these days and times of unrest and upheaval, the importance and power of art is more clear than ever. Art has the power to inspire, to heal, to reach hearts and minds, to produce love. And, love is exactly what we need right now. We won’t always like each other, or each other’s views, politics, beliefs or convictions. And, that’s okay. We can still sit down together and listen, watch, ponder and create. It’s how we can still live and love together.