“The Weight”: A multicultural rendition

September 18, 2019 • 1:30 pm

Reader Michael called my attention to this Playing for Change video which is not only a fantastic rendition of a famous song—a song that turns 51 this year (not 50, as the video notes state below)—but also shows how music can bring people together, at least for one song. I wish we could somehow leverage that to make people stop demonizing each other in general.  The YouTube notes:

We’re excited to share our newest Song Around The World, “The Weight,” featuring musicians performing together across 5 continents. Great songs can travel everywhere bridging what divides us and inspiring us to see how easily we all get along when the music plays. Special thanks to our partner Cambria® for helping to make this possible and to Robbie Robertson, Ringo Starr and all the musicians for joining us in celebrating 50 years of this classic song.

Playing For Change is a movement created to inspire and connect the world through music, born from the shared belief that music has the power to break down boundaries and overcome distances between people. Our primary focus is to record and film musicians performing in their natural environments and combine their talents and cultural power in innovative videos we call Songs Around the World. Creating these videos motivated us to form the Playing For Change Band—a tangible, traveling representation of our mission, featuring musicians met along our journey; and establish the Playing For Change Foundation—a separate 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to building music and art schools for children around the world. Through these efforts, we aim to create hope and inspiration for the future of our planet. Learn more: http://playingforchange.com #iPlayForChange #SongAroundTheWorld

The song was written by Robbie Robertson of The Band, with percussion by Ringo Starr and then a whole lot of musicians from around the world joining in, playing instruments that include the oud, the piano, an electric ukulele, and the sitar. It’s not just a heartwarming act of cooperation, but also kickass music.

As for what the song means, well, go here—but it hardly matters.  Note, though, that song has been up for two weeks and has only 830 views on YouTube? What gives? Go over and give it some love.

45 thoughts on ““The Weight”: A multicultural rendition

  1. A sweet melody. It’s one of those tunes that feels like it’s always existed, like a kind of archetype, or a platonic shape.

  2. Great video! I love Playing for Change’s whole thing.

    Minor correction : on Youtube it says the video was uploaded today, not two weeks ago. And less than an hour after your post, the view count is already over 10K, so I don’t think it’s been overlooked.

    1. That’s clearly down to the sway WEIT has – 10,000 WEIT readers watched it in half an hour, that’s pretty damn impressive 😉

    2. The date on the YouTube video doesn’t tell you when it was uploaded necessarily. That video was dated two weeks ago, but set to ‘unlisted’ by the channel owner. A while after I gave the link to JAC today the owner changed the status to ‘public’ & to the public it shows that public date.

  3. Made me think of when Louie Armstrong became the first western musician allowed to tour behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War. Reporters met his plane on his return, asked him what he thought of the audiences in communist countries.

    “Cats is cats,” said Pops, “anywhere you go.”

    1. That’s good! Particularly the first violin on screen with the ‘country’ feel to it & the vocal harmonies. One guy goes off piste into a semi-reggae for a while. 🙂

      1. Since all the performers are recorded separately, I’m sure Josh deliberately left that reggae bit in. 😎
        I’m impressed with the number of talented people that Josh is able to pull together. Most are friends from his early school days.

  4. I love the song but the original version was better. I will admit that I’m not so much a fan of these “We are the World” style productions.

    And, based on the parts where Ringo is drumming, I suspect the sound was not recorded when the videos were taken.

    1. The sound WAS recorded when the video was taken, just not all the parts – when you see someone playing piano or whatever instrument [&/or singing] that is a live take used in the final production. No syncing bollix here.

      The clue is in the headphones. The Weight took 18 months to build with everything cantilevered off a solo recording demo of Robbie Robertson’s [RR] guitar.


      * RR went into the studio & made a guitar only demo in the required key & tempo

      * Later RR is videoed on a park bench & he plays & sings along to his guitar demo as a duet, but WE only hear his outdoors part

      * Then a mobile studio golf cart travelled the world visiting musicians in the order they first appear in the final number. They get to hear the part immediately before theirs & they carry it on using RR’s studio demo.

      * Ringo’s drums & James “Hutch” Hutchinson’s guitar bass are either in the demo before it goes on its travels or [much more likely] those two parts are added in post-production. [You can see Hutch playing bass at 2:05 alongside John Cruz]

        1. They sure are! Check out the African guitarist on “All Along The Watchtower” – he has nice Hendrix-style wah wah action with just a touch of John Shaft theme thrown in in the syncopation.

    1. Dutch-Surinamese Clarence was born in the former Dutch colony of Suriname, South America & moved to Amsterdam with his family at the age of 6 in the mid 70s. He got his start at 20 with Dutch band, Swing Soul Machine.

      1. My father was in South America in 1945 and I joined him in the W.I. in mid 1946 and in Guyana later, 1968 – still possible I was at skule with his ancestor somewhere???

        1. Of course it’s possible, but you never explained why you thought you went to school with Clarence Bekker’s father in Jamaica. I think you assumed our man Bekker was from Jamaica when his roots are 2,800 km away in Suriname. What was the name of the lad you went to school with? In your year? And what years were those?

          Do you remember our Beatles convo from LAST YEAR IN JULY where you remembered an impossible Beatles gig at Liverpool University, Mountford Hall? Where you also remembered they got £400 in a paper bag? 🙂

  5. Just went to YouTube to watch it.

    As of 8:00PM, Wed. Sept. 8th it’s at 72,401 views.

    I’d bet it’ll get to over a million views before long.

  6. That’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. When I saw that guy from the Congo start singing — knowing about all the strife and war there — I was hit with a wave of emotion.

    Why bother with talk about cultural appropriation? Sharing our cultures breaks down barriers. Let’s not put them back up. Just as Jerry says.

  7. I can’t think of anything I’ve seen net-wise recently that has moved me to happy tears. There was something sublimely optimistic about all those beautiful musicians.

    Also, what BJ said above.

    1. Drummer humour as Douglas says – as a breed they’re not naturally creative & I’m betting Ringo has cracked that humdinger a few hundred times.

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