The Beatles drummer Ringo Starr teamed up with Robbie Robertson to play The Band’s hit “The Weight” in a memorable cover with plenty of star power onboard. The famous drummer and Robertson, who is The Band’s original guitarist, joined a host of collaborators to play the song for Playing for Change, which is a charity that creates music schools in the developing world.
Ringo’s iconic loose groove fits perfectly with the laid-back song, while Robertson provides lead and rhythm guitar as well as backing vocals. The cover went down a treat with music fans online, with the video clocking up 32 million views on YouTube, as you can see below.
The recording was made for Playing for Change’s series Song Around the World, which brings together musicians around the planet to collaborate. Starr kicks off the song with a brief comedy skit, before American bluesman Marcus King opens the first verse on guitar and vocals. Other guest musicians include American blues duo Larkin Poe, Italian slide guitarist Roberto Luti, Japanese guitarist Char and Congolese singer Mermans Mosengo.
“The Weight” was originally written by Robertson and released as the lead single from The Band’s debut album Music from Big Pink in 1968. The song is about a traveler’s visit to Nazareth, Pennsylvania where he checks in on several friends of his friend Fanny. Check out The Band performing “The Weight” at Woodstock a year after the song’s release below.
The lyrics of “The Weight”, like many of the songs from The Band’s debut album, were inspired by Robertson’s travels in the United States, where, as a Canadian, he was exposed to authentic Americana for the first time. The Band’s drummer Levon Helm sang lead vocals on the song, and as the son of an Arkansas cotton farmer, he had the perfect authentic country accent to give the right character to the lyrics.
This is perhaps why Marcus King and Larkin Poe were chosen to sing on the Playing for Change cover, as they hail from South Carolina and Georgia respectively, which leans in nicely to the southern vibe of the original vocal performance.