Saturday, June 15, 2024

Put the load right on me...

You know the wonderful song by the Band, the Weight? I thought I did but this article at American Songwriter gave me a whole bunch more knowledge about the song.

Much of it centers around a late Canadian singer named Cathy Smith who once sang backup for Hoyt Axton. Cathy was also a heroin addict and a drug dealer. She gave John Belushi the speedball cocktail that put him in his grave. Smith died in 2020 after a stint in jail.

“It should have been me in the pine box, with a tag on my toe,” she said in a documentary made for CITY-TV of Toronto in the mid-1980s. “My name is Smith, who cares?”

And she had a baby with the Band, only she didn't know which one of them was the father. 

The Band’s iconic hit “The Weight” follows the narrator as various characters either thwart his efforts or throw more burdens on him as the song progresses. According to a website archiving The Band’s history, the band’s association with Cathy Smith was the main inspiration behind the track. “It was the song that [Helm] used to tease Cathy Evelyn Smith with,” the website reads. “She mentioned that in her book Chasing the Dragon. She said she would turn red and run away cause every time he sang it, he would look over at her and grin.”

The song’s recurring theme of carrying the burden of others seems to be a metaphorical reference to “The Band Baby,” which either belonged to Levon Helm or Richard Danko, both of whom had sexual relations with Smith around the same time.

Fellow bandmate Richard Manuel offered to marry Smith and care for the child, but Smith turned him down. “Richard (who it appears was not responsible) stood up and offered to take the ‘load’ or consequences. It does ring bells with the themes Robbie [Robertson] has stated that “The Weight” is about: sharing a load, guilt, and ‘the impossibility’ of redemption.”

She also had an extramarital imbroglio with Gordon Lightfoot and Keith Richards, the girl clearly got around.

Interesting short article, give it a read.

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