Relive The Last Waltz, A Cultural Milestone, 40 Years Later



The Sixties as we have come to know them came to an end on November 11, 1976 at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, California. Of course I’m talking about The Last Waltz concert, The Band’s farewell to the music scene and a generation’s farewell to the hippie ethos as a pillar of popular culture.

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New Rock paradigms were emerging in the streets that would soon come to disavow anything associated with the Sixties, especially the music. With the benefit of hindsight, we now know that Rock music will always reinvent itself in cycles, reaching back to one era and then another in the search for things that sound new and interesting. Back then, all people knew was that something sweet, like a first love, was coming to an end.

That’s why there’s always a vague sense of sadness you get watching and listening to The Last Waltz film and CD. But the unprecedented collection of guest performers – including Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell, Ringo Starr, Ron Wood, Eric Clapton, Muddy Waters, Neil Diamond – all appeared to grasp the import of the evening, and mostly delivered fantastic performances, elevating it into the mythical status it holds today.

Well here we are 40 years later, and Rhino Records has announced that on November 11, it will release four new 40th Anniversary Editions of The Last Waltz:

Available as a 4CD/Blu-ray set and — for the first time — on vinyl as a 6 LP set, the 40TH ANNIVERSARY DELUXE EDITION of the original soundtrack has 54 tracks, including the entire concert, as well as rehearsals and outtakes. Among the rarities are performances not featured in the film, such as “Furry Sings The Blues” with Joni Mitchell and “All Our Past Times” with Eric Clapton, plus rehearsals for “Caravan” with Van Morrison, “Such A Night” with Dr. John, and “King Harvest (Has Surely Come)” a song that was not performed in concert. The CD version also includes newly-penned liner notes revered music journalists David Fricke and Ben Fong-Torres along with a classic essay from 1977 written by iconic author Emmett Grogan.

I’m pretty excited to hear other songs too that didn’t make the cut first time around, like Muddy Waters doing “Caldonia”, Neil Young’s version of “Four Strong Winds”, and Bob Dylan’s “I Don’t Believe You”. Of course all the music has been remastered so it undoubtedly sounds better than it ever has.

And if you’ve got $260 to spend, the Collector’s Edition offers a truly amazing keepsake on top of all the CDs or vinyl: a red leather-bound 300-page book featuring a full replication of director Martin Scorcese’s shooting script plus rare and previously unseen photos. That sounds like a bargain to me. There’s only going to be 2,500 of these made available beginning December 9.

Just one last note about The Last Waltz. Everybody always chuckles when they see Neil Diamond coming out on stage rocking the leisure suit. But he and Robbie Robertson met while writing songs in the Brill Building in the mid-sixties, and they had great respect for each other. The song he sings, “Dry Your Eyes”, was co-written by the two, and I find it to be a very moving piece of music whose lyric captured what was going down at the Winterland perhaps better than any other song that night. You can’t deny Robbie Robertson’s got a great sense of history.


Dry your eyes and take your song out
It’s a newborn afternoon
And if you can’t recall the singer
You can still recall the tune

Dry your eyes and play it slowly
Like you’re marching off to war
Sing it like you know he’d want it
Like we sang it once before

And from the center of the circle
To the midst of the waiting crowd
If it ever be forgotten
Sing it long and sing it loud
And come dry your eyes

And it taught us more about giving
Than we ever cared to know
But we came to find the secret
And we never let it go

And it was more than being holy
Oh it was less than being free
And if you can’t recall the reason
Can you hear the people sing

Right through the lightning and the thunder
To the dark side of the moon
To that distant falling angel
That descended much too soon
And come dry your eyes






Photo: By Capitol Records (Billboard, page 19, 28 November 1970) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

2 comments to “Relive The Last Waltz, A Cultural Milestone, 40 Years Later”
  1. Pingback: Is Robbie Robertson Going To Finally Bury The Hatchet? | Rocknuts

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