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Old 02-10-2012, 03:32 PM
Biggirl Biggirl is online now
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The Weight-- what's its meaning?

In this thread (that I started) Aretha Franklin's version of The Weight is shown to be on the President's playlist. I listen to the song in both The Band and Aretha flavors and actually paid attention to the words I was singing. Still not sure I know what this song is about.


My interpretation-- probably wrong, I've been wrong many times before-- is that some guy gets to PA and everybody there shits all over him via Franny (or Anne Lee. I hear "Franny" but, like I said, I've been wrong before), who then puts the load in the singer, thus leaving him homeless with only the devil and a hungry dog for company.


How close am I? What is your take on the song?
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Old 02-10-2012, 03:38 PM
Tamerlane Tamerlane is offline
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Not to shut down discussion, but in the wiki for the song, Robbie Robertson describes his take on it. Which I find simultaneously simpler and more obscure than I would have thought .
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Old 02-10-2012, 03:38 PM
cjepson cjepson is offline
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Well, the song's writer has explained what it meant to him.

On edit: Arg! Beaten by mere seconds!!!

Last edited by cjepson; 02-10-2012 at 03:39 PM.
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Old 02-10-2012, 03:45 PM
Biggirl Biggirl is online now
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Well, the writer's take is sort of what I took from the song minus any religion and Bunuel. And he really did mean Nazareth, PA! I was only joking about that!

O.K., now what is your take on the song?
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Old 02-10-2012, 04:00 PM
WordMan WordMan is online now
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Originally Posted by Biggirl View Post
And he really did mean Nazareth, PA! I was only joking about that!
Nazareth is where Martin guitars are built. I don't know if he mentions in this in the linked clip, but I understand he needed a town name that worked rhythmically for the lyric, looked inside his guitar or on the headstock, saw "C.F. Martin Guitar Co., Nazareth, PA" and got what he needed...
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Old 02-10-2012, 04:07 PM
Biffy the Elephant Shrew Biffy the Elephant Shrew is offline
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Yeah, I always assumed the reference to Nazareth was supposed to have biblical resonance. After all, the guy appears in Nazareth, finds no room at the inn, is tempted by the devil, is asked to feed the multitudes a dog, and complains about the load put on him (as in "let this cup pass from me"). Not that it's actually about Jesus, but there are at least vague echoes there.
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Old 02-10-2012, 04:19 PM
Jack Batty Jack Batty is offline
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I never considered the song as one narrative, but rather vignettes that basically had nothing to do with each other, other than -- look at various weird characters I've managed to meet.

I thought it could be one of those songs that grew and grew, by adding more verses/characters. Kind of like Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah - you never know quite which verses you're going to get from cover to cover.
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Old 02-10-2012, 04:25 PM
Ellen Cherry Ellen Cherry is offline
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Originally Posted by Jack Batty View Post
Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah - you never know quite which verses you're going to get from cover to cover.
Did I read that he's got hundreds of verses to that song? Or is that another one?
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Old 02-10-2012, 05:21 PM
Marley23 Marley23 is offline
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Originally Posted by Biggirl View Post
everybody there shits all over him via Franny (or Anne Lee. I hear "Franny" but, like I said, I've been wrong before)
I hear "Fanny." In the third verse there's a mention of a woman named Anna Lee. I've read the Wikipedia entry a few times and I'd never come up with a specific interpretation of my own, but I know I never would've thought of any connection to Luis Bunuel. I still don't really see it.

"The Weight" is an interesting song because it's more complicated and weird than it seems. I think it's become sort of a standard because it's rich with Biblical allusions that make it feel a bit like a gospel song, like Nazareth at the beginning (I believe what he says about the guitar factory, but he knew people would think of Jesus' birthplace), Moses, Luke, the Judgment Day and so on. But it's also got this weary protagonist who keeps getting involved in situations he didn't seek out and asked to do things for peopel who won't do anything for him. I don't know what I think is going on here. What I like so much about the song, I think, is the very strong vibe that grounds all this weirdness- Levon Helm just has one of those voices where I believe he means what he's singing, the guitar is rickery, and the drum part rolls along like the wheels on a stage coach. You can just hear the dust in everybody's clothes.
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Old 02-10-2012, 05:34 PM
Spoons Spoons is offline
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I used to sing this with a bunch of people at karaoke (one of those who was harmonizing on the chorus). To us, it was always "Fanny."

It's a song about a guy who is asked to do a favour--to pass along Miss Annie's regards to the folks in Nazareth. But he's asked by nearly everyone he meets to also do something for them: hang around with the Devil, keep Anna Lee company, feed Jack the dog. Only Crazy Chester offers to do anything for him, but only if he does Chester a favour. And the man he asks about a place to stay declines to tell him. Every time he speaks with somebody, he's got another burden to bear.

Still, I wouldn't surprised if there is a deeper meaning than the Band let on. The Biblical allusions are certainly there.
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Old 02-10-2012, 05:42 PM
Jack Batty Jack Batty is offline
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Originally Posted by Ellen Cherry View Post
Did I read that he's got hundreds of verses to that song? Or is that another one?
I'm not sure if it's 100's - maybe - but, yeah, that's the one.
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Old 02-10-2012, 07:54 PM
minlokwat minlokwat is offline
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I’ll take a stab at this and am doing so purely from memory without looking up the lyrics.

I always thought the narrator was about to die and meets various characters along the way on their similar journey.

The first stanza, pulling into Nazareth, looking for a place to lay his head (die) he comes across a stranger and is basically asking, “Is this it? Is this the promised land?” The stranger says nothing, shakes his hand and says, “No” as in "Sorry pal, no such place exists."

Second verse, Carmen and the devil. The narrator tries to save Carmen “Come on let’s go downtown” but evidently, it’s everyone for him/herself as Carmen says, “I’m going my own way, hang out with him (the devil) if you’d like, I’m out of here.”

Third verse, he encounters Luke waiting alone for Judgment Day. The narrator asks about some other person -Anna Lee- and shouldn’t Luke be tending to her / keeping her company? Luke’s reply, “Oh yeah, can you take care of that one for me?”

Fourth verse, Crazy Chester offers to tend to the narrator’s rags (his corpse I always figured) if he can take his dog with him. That is, the dog is old needs to be put down, you’re heading to the same place, how about it? The narrator replies, I can’t do that, “I’m a peaceful man” to which Chester says, well you can just let him slip away / starve to death by “feed[ing] him when you can”.

Fifth verse. Back or bag is sinking low and now it’s time to die. The narrator is getting back to Miss Fannie, who has already passed and is the only one who actually knows what happens at this moment. That Weight / outcome has now been passed on to the narrator.

Fin.
  #13  
Old 02-10-2012, 08:03 PM
Vinyl Turnip Vinyl Turnip is online now
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Huh. Always thought it was "Manny."
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Old 02-11-2012, 12:21 AM
Marley23 Marley23 is offline
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Originally Posted by minlokwat View Post
Fourth verse, Crazy Chester offers to tend to the narrator’s rags (his corpse I always figured) if he can take his dog with him.
I'm sure the lyric is fix your rack, although that would still sort of fit your interpretation if you take it as wrack.
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Old 02-11-2012, 02:12 PM
minlokwat minlokwat is offline
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Originally Posted by Marley23 View Post
I'm sure the lyric is fix your rack, although that would still sort of fit your interpretation if you take it as wrack.
Did The Band release the lyrics along with the album when it was released?

There’s uncertainty in other parts of the song, Miss Annie or Miss Fanny and whether verse three’s Anna Lee is the same person repeated in the chorus. It makes a cryptic song that much more puzzling
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Old 02-11-2012, 03:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WordMan View Post
Nazareth is where Martin guitars are built. I don't know if he mentions in this in the linked clip, but I understand he needed a town name that worked rhythmically for the lyric, looked inside his guitar or on the headstock, saw "C.F. Martin Guitar Co., Nazareth, PA" and got what he needed...
And as an aside, you can go on a tour of their factory - or at least you used to. I've done it, and I thought it fascinating and I don't even play guitar.

The lyrics are not surprising when you consider that they just had spent a lot of time with Dylan. They fit well with the "Basement Tapes" songs.
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Old 02-13-2012, 01:00 AM
Marley23 Marley23 is offline
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Originally Posted by minlokwat View Post
Did The Band release the lyrics along with the album when it was released?
No. Here's what it looked like.

Quote:
There’s uncertainty in other parts of the song, Miss Annie or Miss Fanny and whether verse three’s Anna Lee is the same person repeated in the chorus. It makes a cryptic song that much more puzzling
It does make things confusing. I don't think Fanny and Anna Lee are the same person- in the chorus it's easy to wonder if they're singing "Take a load off, Annie" or "Take a load off, Fanny," but in the last verse I think it's pretty clear they sing "To get back to Miss Fanny." I think we're supposed to understand that they're separate people, since Anna Lee seems to be a Nazareth local and Miss Fannie is an outsider, since she sent the narrator to Nazareth in the first place.
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Old 02-09-2017, 07:43 AM
rr1ng0 rr1ng0 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by minlokwat View Post
I’ll take a stab at this and am doing so purely from memory without looking up the lyrics.

I always thought the narrator was about to die and meets various characters along the way on their similar journey.

The first stanza, pulling into Nazareth, looking for a place to lay his head (die) he comes across a stranger and is basically asking, “Is this it? Is this the promised land?” The stranger says nothing, shakes his hand and says, “No” as in "Sorry pal, no such place exists."

Second verse, Carmen and the devil. The narrator tries to save Carmen “Come on let’s go downtown” but evidently, it’s everyone for him/herself as Carmen says, “I’m going my own way, hang out with him (the devil) if you’d like, I’m out of here.”

Third verse, he encounters Luke waiting alone for Judgment Day. The narrator asks about some other person -Anna Lee- and shouldn’t Luke be tending to her / keeping her company? Luke’s reply, “Oh yeah, can you take care of that one for me?”

Fourth verse, Crazy Chester offers to tend to the narrator’s rags (his corpse I always figured) if he can take his dog with him. That is, the dog is old needs to be put down, you’re heading to the same place, how about it? The narrator replies, I can’t do that, “I’m a peaceful man” to which Chester says, well you can just let him slip away / starve to death by “feed[ing] him when you can”.

Fifth verse. Back or bag is sinking low and now it’s time to die. The narrator is getting back to Miss Fannie, who has already passed and is the only one who actually knows what happens at this moment. That Weight / outcome has now been passed on to the narrator.

Fin.
Fourth verse, Crazy Chester offers to tend to the narrator’s rags (his corpse I always figured) if he can take his dog with him. That is, the dog is old needs to be put down, you’re heading to the same place, how about it? The narrator replies, I can’t do that, “I’m a peaceful man” to which Chester says, well you can just let him slip away / starve to death by “feed[ing] him when you can”.


Crazy chester accuses him of stealing his dog so he'll settle his hash fix his rack means give him a hiding the singer says wait a minute chester I don't want too fight you "you know I'm a peaceful man the man smiles and says that's ok you can still have him wont you feed him when you can
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Old 02-09-2017, 10:33 AM
excavating (for a mind) excavating (for a mind) is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rr1ng0 View Post
...
Crazy chester accuses him of stealing his dog so he'll settle his hash fix his rack means give him a hiding the singer says wait a minute chester I don't want too fight you "you know I'm a peaceful man the man smiles and says that's ok you can still have him wont you feed him when you can
Welcome to SDMB, rr1ng0! Thanks for resurrecting this zombie as this song has always been a favorite of mine and I love to hear other people's impressions of it.

This verse has always had me confused a bit, but I think you might have help me straighten it out. You are incorrect in thinking that Chester is accusing him of stealing his dog. The verse is (as near as I can tell)
Quote:
Crazy Chester followed me and he caught me in the fog.
He said, "I will fix your rack, if you'll take Jack, my dog."
I said, "Wait a minute, Chester, you know I'm a peaceful man."
He said, "That's okay, boy, won't you feed him when you can."
To me, Chester is offering a bed (a rack) for the guy (all he ever wanted in the first place) in exchange for taking care of his dog. The guy, who is in the fog, misinterprets this as the guy is threatening to bust him in the chops. Chester, being crazy and all, ignores the offense taken and responds as if it was just an objection to taking the dog and tries to still get him to take the dog by saying, "all you gotta do is feed him when you have some scraps."
  #20  
Old 02-12-2017, 11:30 AM
Sandwood Sandwood is offline
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Huh. And all this time I thought the lyrics to the chorus were something completely different...

I don't remember where exactly I actually read that because it was over 20 years ago, but it must have been either a Bob Dylan biography or a book on iconic musicians and bands of the late 60s and early 70s. In it, the author stated that the chorus to the song went, "take a load of phrennies", phrennies being hippie era slang for schizophrenia medication used recreationally.
  #21  
Old 02-12-2017, 02:26 PM
mikecurtis mikecurtis is online now
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the best (imho) songs - and books, movies, etc - are the ones that tell a story thats just vague enough where the listener can bring their own interpretation to it! and the weight does that in spades! one of my favorites.

i never had the chance to see the band live, but i've watched the last waltz dozens of times and many other videos of them. i dont know where levon goes when he's singing, but, istm, he's in a better place, and his reverie comes clearly through his voice to the audience.

beautiful!

mc
  #22  
Old 02-13-2017, 12:22 AM
Loach Loach is offline
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I didn't think that there was that much controversy over what the lyrics were although I know there are many interpretations of the meaning. If you listen to the Last Waltz version they are clearly saying Fanny and it's rack not rag.

My daughter has a friend named Annalee. Whenever she mentions her I'm obligated to say "What about young Annalee?" That annoys my daughter which is pretty much the job of the father of a teenage girl.
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