“The Weight” is a song originally by the Canadian-American group, The Band that was released as Capitol Records single 2269 in 1968 and on the group’s debut album Music from Big Pink. Written by Band member Robbie Robertson, the song is about a visitor’s experiences in a town mentioned in the lyric’s first line as Nazareth. “The Weight” has significantly influenced American popular music, having been listed as #41 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time published in 2004. Pitchfork Media named it the 13th best song of the Sixties, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame named it one of the 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. PBS, which broadcast performances of the song in “Ramble at the Ryman” (2011), “Austin City Limits” (2012), and “Quick Hits” (2012), describes it as “a masterpiece of Biblical allusions, enigmatic lines and iconic characters” and notes its enduring popularity as “an essential part of the American songbook.”
is one of The Band’s best known songs though it was not a significant mainstream hit for the group in the U.S., peaking at only #63. The Band’s recording fared much better in Canada and the UK – in those countries, the single was a top 40 hit, peaking at #35 in Canada and #21 in the UK in 1968. However, the song’s popularity was greatly enhanced by three cover releases in 1968 and 1969 with arrangements that appealed to a diversity of music audiences. Aretha Franklin’s 1969 soul music arrangement was included in her This Girl’s in Love with You album, which peaked in the U.S. at #19 and #3 on the soul chart, and peaked in Canada at #12. Jackie DeShannon’s 1968 pop music arrangement, debuting on the Hot 100 one week before The Band’s, peaked at #55 in the U.S., #35 in Canada. A joint single rhythm and blues arrangement released by Diana Ross & the Supremes and The Temptations in 1969, hit #46 in the U.S. and #36 in Canada. The Band’s and Jackie DeShannon’s versions never mentioned the title. The Band’s version credits Jaime Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel, Garth Hudson, Levon Helm on the record label, rather than The Band.