|THE BAND: A COLLECTIVE BIOGRAPHY
The Band, one of he most respected music ensembles ever assembled, played their farewell Last Waltz concert on Thanksgiving Day at Winterland in San Francisco. After more than a decade and a half of playing together, they announced that they were never going to tour as The Band again. While various members have performed together, all five have never regrouped on one stage since the Last Waltz concert.
This historical rock n' roll event is celebrated in the Martin Scorsese film, The Last Waltz, in which the following guest artists participated (in alphabetical order): Paul Butterfield, Eric Clapton, Neil Diamond, Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, Ronnie Hawkins, Dr. John, Joni
Mitchell, Van Morrison, The Staples, Ringo Starr, Stephen Stills, Muddy Waters, Ron Wood, and Neil Young. The film was directed by Academy Award[!]-nominee Martin Scorsese (The Age Of Innocence, Raging Bull) and produced by Robbie Robertson of The Band. Jonathan Taplin was the executive producer.
All but one member of The Band hail from Canada, where they came together in 1960 as The Hawks, a backing band for Ronnie Hawkins, "The King of Rockabilly." The Hawks played mainly in Canada and throughout the southern United States in taverns, burlesque bars, small supper clubs, risk-your-life joints and beer halls. They also played at football victory parties, where they'd walk knee-deep in beer cans to get to the stage. They played six or seven nights a week, traveling to gigs in Hawkins' Cadillac, hauling equipment in a trailer with two big hawks painted on either side.
After three years with Hawkins, the group went on their own as Levon & The Hawks. They returned to Toronto and played various clubs, where blues impresario John Hammond came up to jam with them. The experience led to some of the Hawks backing Hammond on two albums.
The Band traveled to Chicago, Texas and Arkansas, where they met and played with Sonny Boy Williamson, and would have continued to do so had the bluesman not died of
tuberculosis soon after. Waiting in the wings was a new opportunity that would forever
change their careers: Bob Dylan asked them to play concerts at the Hollywood Bowl and Forest Hills, which led to a 1966 world tour, including dates across Canada and the United
States, Britain, France, Sweden, Denmark and Australia.
During the summer of 1968, The Hawks, now known as The Band, released their first album on Capitol Records, Music From Big Pink, to instantaneous acclaim. The Band, plus their families, friends, animals and recording equipment, relocated to California, into a big house in the Hollywood Hills. They recorded The Band, their second album, in the pool house-turned studio. The enormous pressure imposed by fame inspired their third album, Stage Fright. Their fourth LP, Cahoots, was their most experimental and first true studio album to date. Their next album, Rock Of Ages, contained both new and classic rock n' roll song and included inspired horn charts of New Orleans' innovative arranger, Allan Toussaint. Their next album, Moondog Matinee, was an LP filled with classics made famous by Elvis Presley, The Platters, Fats Domino and many others.
They also backed Dylan on his album Planet Waves, followed by a tour in the spring of 1974. A year later, The Band released their long-awaited studio album of new material: Northern Lights - Southern Cross. The Last Waltz was the climax and finale of their subsequent tour. In 1994, The Band was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and remaining members performed live at the induction ceremony.
The Band's drummer and singer extraordinaire, LEVON HELM was the only American in the group. Helm was playing guitar at 14 in local bands that played dances around his native Arkansas Delta. He listened to legendary blues harpman Sonny Boy Williamson's 15-minute radio show, "King Biscuit Time," at twelve noon, and made it over to Memphis to catch the live shows. His group did imitations of Carl Perkins, spunky country numbers and jukebox hits. Helm led The Jungle Bush Beaters when they played a dance opposite Hawkins. The next day he began as drummer with The Hawks.
After The Band's famed 1976 farewell performance, Helm cut his 1977 debut solo album
Levon Helm & The RCO All Stars, followed a year later by his self-titled sophomore effort. In 1980 he recorded American Son, while another eponymously-titled effort was released in 1982. The Band reformed in 1983 without Robertson; following Manuel's death in 1986, the remaining trio released 1993's Jericho, recorded at Helm's home studio in Woodstock, New York. That same year, Helm published his autobiography, This Wheel's On Fire, co-authored with Stephen Davis. The Band's bluesy High On The Hog followed in 1995. The late '90s (and into the next decade) found Helm still making music in a new blues band called Levon Helm & The Barn Burners, with his daughter, Amy, providing vocals.
Helm has also pursued a successful acting career, appearing in such films as The Right Stuff, Coal Miner's Daughter, playing Loretta Lynn's father, The Dollmaker with Jane Fonda, and Smooth Talk, among others. He also toured with Ringo Starr & The All Star Band.
ROBBIE ROBERTSON's childhood was split between Toronto and the Six Nations Indian Reservation where his mother was born. He began playing guitar and writing songs at 13 and joined the Musician's Union to play with local groups including Robbie & The Robots, Little Caesar & The Consuls, and Thumper & The Trambones. Ronnie Hawkins recorded two of his songs just as Robertson reached 15. The following year he joined The Hawks, first as bassist, then replacing Fred Carter as guitarist.
The Last Waltz project marked the beginning of Robertson's long affiliation with director Martin Scorsese; in 1980, Robertson co-starred with Jodie Foster and Gary Busey in Carny. In addition, he wrote, produced and composed the source music for the film, inspired by the soundtrack composer, Alex North. Also in 1980, he worked on the music to Scorsese's highly acclaimed film, Raging Bull, and continued to confine his musical activity to the film medium for the next several years, later working with Scorsese on the 1983 satire The King Of Comedy and 1986's The Color Of Money. Finally, in 1987, Robertson released his self-titled solo debut, which included guest appearances from onetime Band-mates Danko and Hudson as well as U2, Peter Gabriel, Daniel Lanois and Gil Evans. The solo debut wins several Juno awards in Canada, and the album's "Somewhere Down The Crazy River" earns a Grammy nomination for "Best Rock Vocal." Roberston next produces Storyville, a conceptual piece steeped in the sounds and imagery of a famed area of New Orleans, in 1990.
In 1994, Robertson returned to his roots, forming the Native American group the Red Road Ensemble for Music For 'The Native Americans,' a collection of songs composed for the television documentary series. Another solo project, Contact From The Underworld Of Redboy, followed in 1998, and another musical score, for Oliver Stone's Any Given Sunday, in 1999. Robertson has recently reunited with Scorsese as music consultant for a new film, Gangs Of New York, to be released in Spring of 2002, and he currently continues his work with the Native American Music Association while serving as Creative Executive for DreamWorks Records.
RICK DANKO, working near Simco, Ontario, in the Canadian tobacco belt, was next into the Hawks's fold following Robbie Robertson. He was playing mandolin, guitar and violin since his pre-high school days and traveled 50 miles to hear a rock 'n' roll band. He joined The Band as singer and bass player.
After the group retired from live work in 1976, Danko recorded a self-titled solo album the
next year. In the '80s, The Band was re-formed without Robertson, and Danko continued to perform and record with it in the years to follow while taking time out to work with Ringo Starr's All-Starr Band and release two albums as part of a trio with Eric Andersen and Jonas Fjeld. He passed away on December 10, 1999, just one day after his 56th birthday.
RICHARD MANUEL, of Statford, Ontario, learned to play by listening to songs on the radio. Later, wearing bright orange pants and leading his own group, The Rockin' Revols ('Revols' was short for Revolution), he leaped into the rockabilly ranks on energy-piano and vocals.
Manuel reformed with The Band in the 1980s. He passed away while the band was on tour in March of 1986.
GARTH HUDSON had a diverse musical education in London, Ontario, ranging from Sunday morning symphonic concerts heard on his father's radio, to Alan Freed's "Moondog Matinee" beamed every evening, Monday through Friday. He played the accordion at 16 in a country band, and after high school, made it to Detroit to form his own group - Paul London & The Capers. He returned to Canada in 1962 and joined The Hawks, playing organ and solos in the newly-recruited horn section. He gave the other members musical lessons between engagements.
Throughout the past decades, Hudson has played and recorded with a variety of artists,
including frequent appearances, both studio and live, with Professor Louie & The Crowmatix. In 1998, Hudson was prominently featured on the star-studded Dvorák-inspired concept album Largo (which had a live performance at Vassar College in 2001). In September 2001, Hudson released his "official" solo debut, The Sea To The North, on Breeze Hill Records. His only previous solo release was 1980's Our Lady Queen Of The Angels, a score he wrote for an exhibit by sculptor Tony Duquette.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
MARTIN SCORSESE (Director) was born in 1942 in New York City and grew up in the tough downtown neighborhood of Little Italy. Coming of age in these surroundings later provided the inspiration for several of his films. He suffered from severe asthma as a child, which prevented him from playing outside and participating in sports, so his parents often took him to the movies. He was fascinated by the images on the screen and often drew his own movies at home. Scorsese graduated from Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx and received a B.S. (1964) and M.S. (1968) from New York University.
At N.Y.U., he made several award-winning student films (including It's Not Just You,
Murray! and The Big Shave. He also wrote the script for what became his first feature film, Who's That Knocking At My Door?, which was released theatrically in 1969. During this time he also served on N.Y.U.'s faculty from 1968 through 1970.
In 1970 Scorsese moved to Hollywood. It was there where he met Roger Corman who asked him to direct Boxcar Bertha (1972), starring David Carradine and Barbara Hershey. Encouraged by John Cassavetes to pursue a more personal style of filmmaking, Scorsese began work on Mean Streets; an autobiographical story set in Little Italy (although most of it was shot in Los Angeles). Harvey Keitel and Robert De Niro played the lead parts. Scorsese used his favorite records for the soundtrack. Acclaimed at the 1973 New York Film Festival, and by critics, Mean Streets was his breakthrough film.
In 1974, after being recommended to Warner Bros., and to Ellen Burstyn by Francis Coppola, Scorsese next directed Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore. The picture was his first major commercial success and won Burstyn an Oscar® for Best Actress. In the same year he made a documentary about his parents, ItalianAmerican. When it was presented at the New York Film Festival, it received a standing ovation as the credits, (which also included his mother's recipe for spaghetti sauce), rolled.
Taxi Driver (1976) was his next feature film. Written by Paul Schrader, it starred Robert De Niro in one of his most electrifying performances as the Vietnam vet turned cabby, Travis Bickle. Harvey Keitel, Jodie Foster, and Cybill Sherherd were also in the controversial film. It received four Oscar® nominations and was awarded the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. The following year (1977), Scorsese and De Niro teamed up again for New York, New York, co-starring Liza Minelli. The film is a drama about the marriage of two creative people and the ups and downs that come with an artistic union. The film was shot with the intent to recreate the feel of an old-fashioned Technicolor Hollywood musical.
The Last Waltz (1978) was Scorsese's documentary of the extraordinary last concert by The Band. In it, music was performed by such rock 'n' roll legends as Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Muddy Waters, Van Morrison, Neil Young, and Joni Mitchell.
It was his next picture, Raging Bull, which firmly established Martin Scorsese's artistic
reputation. Released in 1980, it was named "Best Film of the Decade" by numerous
magazine and critic's polls, and was nominated for six Academy Awards®. It won two: "Best Actor" went to Robert De Niro for his brilliant performance as the self-destructive boxer Jake LaMotta, and "Best Editing." Using Raging Bull (which he shot in black and white) as evidence, Scorsese launched a successful international campaign against the manufacture of color-fading film stock.
He then directed The King Of Comedy, an edgy film about the lure of show business, with Robert De Niro and Jerry Lewis in 1982. When the movie did not succeed financially,
Scorsese decided to make an independent movie, After Hours (1985), with Griffin Dunne and Rosanna Arquette, for which he won the "Best Director" award at Cannes. He returned to a studio project with The Color Of Money in 1986. Paul Newman received his first "Best Actor" Oscar® for his portrayal of a pool shark. The following year he made a video for Michael Jackson_s "Bad"and a commercial for Giorgio Armani.
In 1988, after many years of trying to get financing, Scorsese finally brought a cherished
project to the screen. Based on the novel by Nikos Kazantzakis, The Last Temptation Of
Christ sparked an uproar and led to demonstrations by church groups around the world. Scorsese received his second Academy Award® nomination for Best Director for the film. In 1989 he directed "Life Lessons," part of the New York Stories trilogy (the other segments were directed by Woody Allen and Francis Coppola). "Life Lessons" is a study of the artistic temperament starring Nick Nolte as a painter and Rosanna Arquette as the woman he is obsessed by.
In 1990, Scorsese and seven other prominent filmmakers created the Film Foundation. This
organization serves as an intermediary between the studios and film archives to encourage the restoration and preservation of the films in their libraries.
GoodFellas, based on the life of a Mafia foot soldier, (played by Ray Liotta), came out in 1990 and was nominated for six Academy Awards®. (Joe Pesci won an Oscar® for "Best Supporting Actor.") It received numerous critics' awards ("Best Picture" and "Best Director" by the New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and National Society of Film Critics); and Scorsese was given the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival. Right after the shooting of GoodFellas, he went to Japan to play the part of Van Gogh in Akira Kurosawa's Dreams.
With Cape Fear (1991), Scorsese tackled "the thriller." It was a powerful remake of the 1962 Gregory Peck/Robert Mitchum film about a vicious ex-convict (Robert De Niro) seeking revenge on the lawyer (Nick Nolte) who sent him to prison. Also starring Jessica Lange and Juliet Lewis, Cape Fear was Scorsese's most financially successful film. In 1991, the American Cinematique honored him for his illustrious career. The following year he started a film company, Martin Scorsese Presents, devoted to the restoration and exhibition of classic films. Renoir's "The Golden Coach," Visconti's "Rocco And His Brothers," and Bunuel's "Belle de Jour"are some of the movies re-released under its aegis.
In 1993, he directed The Age Of Innocence (1993), a sumptuous rendition of Edith Wharton's novel about New York society at the turn of the century. It starred Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Winona Ryder. It was a critical success and was nominated for five Academy Awards®.
With Casino in 1995, Scorsese returned to the world of gangsters in an epic tale about the rise and fall of the mob in Las Vegas in the 1970s. It starred Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Sharon Stone (who won a Golden Globe for her role). The following year he completed a 4-hour documentary, A Personal Journey With Martin Scorsese Through American Movies, commissioned by the British Film Institute to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of cinema. That same year he also received the Golden Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival. In 1997 the American Film Institute honored Scorsese when they presented him with their prestigious Life Achievement Award. Later that year, he directed Kundun, the story of the early life of the present Dalai Lama, who fled to India after the takeover of his country by the communist Chinese. Made in Morocco with a cast of non-actors, it was finally released by Disney after threats to the studio from the Chinese government. The movie received four Academy Award® nominations and won many critics praise for its cinematography and music. In May 1998, Scorsese received the Lifetime Career Award from Lincoln Center's Film Society, and served as President of the Jury at Cannes.
Martin Scorsese most recently directed the forthcoming Gangs Of New York, starring Leonardo Di Caprio, Daniel Day Lewis and Cameron Diaz.
For more than three decades, JONATHAN TAPLIN's (Executive Producer) career has been full and varied--one heavily seasoned with experience in the entertainment worlds of music, film and finance.
Taplin's introduction into the entertainment business began in 1965, when he was just 18
years old. The summer before his freshman year at Princeton University, Taplin ventured to The Newport Folk Festival, where he landed a job with The Jim Kweskin Jug Band. That experience led to a dream job, serving as road manager for The Band.
In 1974 he moved to Hollywood to pursue his dream of producing films. He arrived in Los Angeles with just one referral to seek out, a young director named Martin Scorsese. Together they produced Mean Streets, starring Robert DeNiro and Harvey Keitel. The project became a critical and box office success, and went on to be selected for The Cannes Film Festival. He defined independent films and the new wave of '70s films. Between 1974 and 1996, Taplin produced 26 hours of television documentaries and 12 feature films including The Last Waltz, Until The End Of The World, Under Fire and To Die For. His films were nominated for Oscars® and Golden Globes and chosen for The Cannes Film Festival seven times. His television work garnered three Emmys. After 10 years of producing films, Taplin ran in more financial circles, where he advised Sid Bass and Richard Rainwater in their successful attempt to save Walt Disney Studios from a corporate raid. This experience brought him to Merrill Lynch, where he served as vice president of media mergers and acquisitions. In this role, he helped re-engineer the media landscape with such feats as helping in the leveraged buyout of Viacom.