Explain the lyrics of the Band's "The Weight"

I’ve been listening to this song for years, and I love howling along, but the words don’t make a blind bit of sense to me. Can anyone enlighten me?

I have a vague sense that the singer’s telling me that people in the rural south are desperate and suffering and this makes him make all kinds of biblical allusions.

It’s my understanding (cite not available at this time) that Robbie Robertson had been watching a lot of Luis Buneal films at the time he wrote this song. I remember him describing it as an allegorical exercise about long journeys that conclude in unrealized expectations.

Also, the opening line, about pulling into Nazerath, is a reference to Nazerath, PA, where a guitar manufacturer was located.

That would be the Martin factory.

I’ve heard it explained by one of the Band members that the point is people keep asking you to do them favors, leaving your burdened with their weight.

Note the verses:

  1. Asks for a room, can’t find one. Now he needs a place to stay.
  2. Meets Carman and the Devil. Carman leaves the devil with him.
  3. Meets Moses. He tells singer to keep Anna Lee company.
  4. Meets Chester. Chester leaves him his dog, despite the narrator’s protests.
  5. Catches a cannon ball (a literal weight). Wants to go back to Fanny, who sent him there.

In each case, the singer has to take on another burden.

They have a nice tour.

As for the song, it’s not surprising they wrote something like this after hanging around with Dylan in Woodstock so long.