Good music documentaries are really good, and to me, really, really good if the music is from a long time ago – preferably 30+ years ago. And I don’t say that because I love older music above all else, but I do love seeing really clear footage of musicians in their prime, especially if I’ve only ever known those musicians as much older. So if you have that and then throw a director like Martin Scorsese into the mix . . . I mean, you’re all set.
I’ve honestly never really listened to The Band. In fact, I think I may have heard of them longer ago than I thought and was just confused by their name. After watching this I realized I actually know more of their songs than I thought. But either way, the majority of my listening to The Band has come from being around Chris when he listens to them. But like any good documentary, my lack of knowledge about The Band really didn’t matter.
The Last Waltz is mostly a recording of their final concert as The Band, mixed in with small interviews in between. When the band first came on stage, the first thing that struck me was how weirdly modern they look. Except it’s more like modern bands look like them. What I’m saying is that it was really funny and interesting to see this band in the 1970s look like a band from 2015 just because 70s style has come back in a big way. The only thing that really dated them was their heavy cigarette smoking.
But really, the best part was seeing all of the musicians in this documentary so young. Besides The Band, there’s Dr. John, Eric Clapton, Muddy Waters, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Neil Diamond, Emmylou Harris, Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, and Ringo Starr . . . among others. It was crazy! It’s like everyone looked the same . . . but so different? Like I was watching all of these people’s children instead of them themselves. I also learned that I actually had no clue what Van Morrison looked like, which I hadn’t really realized. And that he was a giant dork:
I think my favorite part of the whole documentary was a conversation with Robbie Robertson, talking about all the people there. He talks about how influential everyone is on each other and everyone else and will continue to be. Which is really just amazing because I don’t think even he realized just how right he was. I mean look at that lineup! Bob Dylan! A Beatle! Neil Diamond AND Young! I mean every name up there has an incredible following and were (and still are) insanely influential and important to music. What an amazing time, place, and thing to be a part of.
Music never really became a big thing in my life until high school. Before that I can only really think of a few things I liked and most of that seemed to be a product of my surroundings. In high school I first learned about Bob Marley and got pretty into him. Then I was introduced to Bob Dylan. That really changed my life. What was funny about that was before I really knew who Bob Dylan was I knew of him through parodies on TV shows. Probably mostly The Simpsons, but what always happened was that I kind of liked what it sounded like? So when I actually heard the real Bob Dylan for the first time, I was completely in love. He’s something that has been a constant in my life ever since and I keep finding more of his stuff to get into to this day. So with this background, Bob Dylan is what brought me to The Last Waltz.
High school was also the time I became interested in movies so getting my hands on any kind of Bob Dylan anything was always at the top of my list. The Last Waltz was one of the top docs I had heard about and even though I knew of The Band I was really new at understanding their role in history, especially in terms of Bob Dylan. This movie really took me from the beginning and I watched it on a regular basis for a while. The number of performers is ridiculous. And because of this I learned a lot of new people. This movie was the first time I had heard of Dr. John, Paul Butterfield, and Ronnie Hawkins. This became the one concert I would choose if I had a time machine. (Now I think it would just be a 1966 Bob Dylan concert.)
I feel lost in this post now because I have way too much to say about it but I love this film and it’s worth watching. I’m actually going to be driving to their studio/house Big Pink at the end of June. I’ll be flying into Albany and renting a car. I am so excited I can’t really think about it. I want to bring some water colors to try to do something while I’m there but I’m still thinking about what I want to do exactly.