For music lovers, there are few things to be more thankful for than Thanksgiving Day, 1976. Oddly, that was the day that a legendary band of four Canadians and an Arkansan would retire from public performance. The fact that this Band would rekindle interest in American roots music is well-documented; they are, in fact, the first and last word in the music now known as ‘Americana.’ Their landmark album Music From Big Pink, shifted the psychedelic axis of music to a more intimate, pastoral worldview. It contributed to Eric Clapton's decision to leave the supergroup Cream, who upon hearing the album, said simply “it changed my life.” George Harrison and Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters would also cite the album as a major influence.
But after many years of touring, primarily the roadhouse circuit before famously backing Dylan, The Band would call it quits and go out on their own terms, in a concert that would also forever change music, yet never be bettered. The concerts, produced, of course, by Bill Graham, would cost only $15 and ticket goers could expect ballroom dancing and a full Thanksgiving dinner served beforehand at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco. Classic Bill Graham. The music was classic Band — with friends — that would span the band’s career, influences and the musical arcs of the time. Robbie Robertson said The Band wanted The Last Waltz to be “more than just a concert. We wanted it to be a celebration.” The event was filmed by a young Martin Scorcese so, consistent with Thanksgiving, sit back and enjoy what was served up on that historic occasion. Here are three of my favorite moments from this legendary Thanksgiving musical feast.