IMHO, The Band was one of the greatest bands ever. They never really got their due, probably because their name was too generic, and their association with Bob Dylan relegated them to backing band status in the minds of many casual music fans.
Within The Band, Garth Hudson, who turns 78 today, is easily the least well-known. All the others sang, and had their particular niche – Levon Helm, the Arkansas kid with the distinctive drawl, Robbie Robertson the hotshot guitarist and main songwriter (although Levon would dispute that), Rick Danko with his quivering falsetto, Richard Manuel with his soulful voice, put to use most memorably on “I Shall Be Released.” And there in the background was the mad scientist/keyboard wizard/genius, Garth. The strong, silent type. But let’s not forget that it was Garth who recorded the famous “Basement Tapes.” It’s Garth who has done the most since The Band broke up, doing session work and recording with dozens of artists, and still performing to this day.
It’s time to sing the praises of the unsung hero and “glue guy” of The Band. Happy Birthday, Garth, and here’s to many more!
Here’s a nice interview with Garth about the Basement Tapes. And check out Garth’s work in the middle of this song:
And here’s Garth on piano just a couple of years ago on his 76th birthday. Dude can still work it.