Back in September, a star-studded cover of “The Weight,” the iconic song made famous by the Band decades, ago, was released as part of the Playing for Change campaign, a coordinated effort by musicians across the globe to come together under the unifying power of music. The clip was essentially a remote jam session involving Robbie Robertson, Ringo Starr, Lukas Nelson, Roberto Luti, Marcus King, Larkin Poe, Japanese guitarist Char and many others.
In the age of the coronavirus pandemic, with everybody stuck in their homes and mandated social distancing practices in effect worldwide, this initiative seems all the more appropriate, given the circumstances.
Throughout the past week or so, Robbie Robertson has noted an uptick in interest in “The Weight” and, particularly, the Playing for Change performance, and the guitarist spoke with Rolling Stone in a new piece about the power the song provides to people at this current point in time:
The number of people that I know that have responded to this, and some people that I barely know that have come out of the woodwork … it’s almost like it’s good medicine. And it’s so suitable right now. I thought to my myself, “This is definitely the ultimate in global self-distancing.” This is a way to protect yourself from anything: playing music with people around the world. My son, Sebastian, was behind this. When he mentioned this to me, I was kind of like, “Oh, OK, if you want to do it, of course I’ll cooperate.” But I didn’t know what they were going to do. One day they said, “Will you come and play a little bit?” So I took an hour and went over, and then it slipped my mind. And then they sent me a rough cut of it, and I got chills. The unity that it conveys, not only here but around the world, that is such good medicine.
There’s more in the Rolling Stone piece about Robertson and how he’s spending his time in isolation in Los Angeles right now.
And for even more from Robertson, regarding his 2019 album Sinematic, creative partnership and friendship with filmmaker Martin Scorsese and other topics, be sure to read our March cover story/feature interview at this link.