The Band: Pioneers Of Americana Music

The Band: Pioneers of Americana Music:
New Book Coming April 2014: Scarecrow Press

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I’ve read two books about The Band: Across the Great Divide – The Band and America by Barney Hoskyns and This Wheel’s on Fire – Levon Helm and the Story of the Band by Levon Helm with Stephen Davis.  Both are fascinating accounts of one of the greatest and most different bands in rock history.  Indeed I’ve long considered that The Band are the godfathers of alt. country and Americana music, presenting a roots-based blend of “native” American music like no one else.

Now it looks like I’m going to have to increase my book collection on The Band, with the news of a forthcoming new release – The Band: The Pioneers of Americana Music by Craig Harris, available April 2014.

At a time when acid rock and heavy metal dominated popular music, The Band rebelled with a mix of tight ensemble arrangements, masterful musicianship, great vocalists, highly literate lyricism, and respect for the musical traditions of the American South.  Comprised of Canadians Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel, and Garth Hudson, and Arkansas-born Levon Helm, The Band sparked a new appreciation for America’s musical roots, fusing R&B, jump blues, country, folk, boogie-woogie, swing, Cajun, New Orleans-style jazz, and rock, and setting the foundations for the Americana that would take hold thirty years later.

The Band: Pioneers of Americana Music explores the diverse influences on the quintet’s music, and the impact that their music had in turn on contemporary music and American society.  Through previously unpublished interviews with Robbie Robertson, Eric Andersen, Pete Seeger and the late Rick Danko, as well as numerous other sources, Craig Harris surveys The Band’s musical journey from sidemen for, among others, Ronnie Hawkins and Bob Dylan to rock legendary in their own right.  The book touches on the evolution of rock and roll, the electrifying of folk music, unionism, the Civil Rights Movement, the growth of America’s musical roots, changes in radio formatting, changing perceptions of the American South, and the commercializing of the counter-culture, as well as drug dependency, alcoholism, suicide, greed, and the struggle against cancer.

Harris takes readers through their albums, from Music from Big Pink and The Band to their final releases and solo recordings, as well as their historic appearances at the Woodstock Music and Art Festival, the Isle of Wight Festival (with Dylan), Summer Jam at Watkins Glen (with the Allman Brothers Band and the Grateful Dead), and the finale, Martin Scorsese’s The Last Waltz (with an all-star cast) and their participation in The Festival Express (also documented on film).

You can pre-order the book here.

Author: Rob Dickens

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9 Comments

    • My pleasure Craig. I’m looking forward to buying the book. Any other promo I can do, let me know

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      • Wait until March 15 when my website is up and i’ll gladly sign a copy for you…..any help in spreading the word is greatly appreciated.u
        .

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        • Sounds great. If you send me a prompt in March, I will run the story again and link to your new site

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    • And here is a contrasting review from Anna’s Levon Daily:

      Until about a month ago, I didn’t know who Craig Harris even was, let alone that he was writing a book about The Band. Only real Band fans can truly appreciate the gravity of knowing that such a thing exists. I got mine today, and I could not put it down. I thought I knew a lot about The Band and I did. After reading this book, I know much more. It is obviously written by a true fan, and will be much appreciated by legions of other fans who love this music. All his first editions are already sold out.

      I found his story a wonderful addition to things I already knew, while filling in gaps that I didn’t realize existed until today. It’s a page turner. It’s also historically sound, and amazing in its scope. He tells of the dreams and aspirations of each player, and how many were realized. The research alone is vast. Any new comprehensive book about The Band has to be, and this is like an encyclopedia of the roots of this pioneering music.

      This book contains the story of the birth of so many dreams my head was spinning. If you are a fan of The Band during their entire history, this book is a must read. It is obviously lovingly handled and explained beautifully, a story told from all kinds of sources in a format I long for most days, a BOOK! It harkens back to when I was breathlessly waiting for every Rolling Stone, snuck my brother’s High Times, and immersed myself in the music to the extent that I did. I also wrote concert reviews, naturally learning to play close attention to everything in print about music. I find out I am not alone in my manic pursuit of the details and stories about this magical ensemble.

      Because of my personal knowledge, I knew many of the stories, and Craig’s sources for the information because they were the same as mine. And millions of Band fans will feel the same. But this is much more, and the glorious feeling of knowing more about my beloved Band and Levon Helm makes me feel like a kid who still hungers for the music news in print. It evokes that feel in the book as well. Names are named and connections are made clear.

      I thought I knew a lot about The Band, and I do, especially Levon. Craig’s book lays out the history in reverent admiration that is genuine and reflects sentiments of the masses of nameless fans who feel the same way. One of my favorite passages discusses the relationship between Levon and Amy Helm as he struggled through chemo, and her selfless devotion to her dad is made crystal clear. Also, the joy Levon got from the realization of his dream of having the Rambles is clearly present, while also devoting equal, fair, and unbiased reporting about all the original members. The facts and history are painstakingly told in such a great way to help keep Levon’s spirit alive and well, along with Rick and Richard. This book will be one that The Angel Band would applaud.

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  1. An open letter to Peter Stone Brown (and the readers of American Songwriter):
    Thank you for your perceptive review of my book, The Band: Pioneers of Americana Music. Appropriate changes ensure that future printings will reflect accuracy.
    Someone once pointed out that typos hide before publication and scream afterwards – the absence of an apostrophe (Hays’s), the addition of an “s” at the end of Levon Helm’s name, or failing to acknowledge Paul Robeson’s earth-shattering rendition of “I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night.” My placing Richard Manuel’s birthplace in Stratford, Oregon rather than Ottawa was the result of brain freeze. Despite strenuous reviewing, and revising, by Rowman & Littlefield editors, and me, none of us caught it. Your detailed explanation regarding John Hammond, Jr. was clarifying.
    As for asking your permission to quote from one of your interviews, we should not forget that it is the message, and not the medium, that is important. A celebrity’s words are not copyright-able. There are several reasons for this. One is the Fair Use doctrine – the public has the right to know what a public figure has to say. The other is that you cannot copyright the truth. It is a fact that someone said something to somebody, whether credit is given or not. The words between quotes are the opinions of the writer – the creative part of the article – and are indeed copyright-protected, but the words of a public figure are not. Bringing together all available material and brewing a unique interpretation is research. I apologize, however, for incorrectly crediting a quote to one of your interviews. It has changed to “once told a reporter.”
    Your input has helped to strengthen my book, and future readers, and I, am in your gratitude. With the suggested corrections made, and an extremely complex story further unraveled, I hope that you will re-evaluate what I have written. Thank you!

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