Tears of Rage
Richard Manuel died tonight in 1986. Maybe he took his own life, maybe he didn’t. Yes, it was a hanging. Is that so cut and dry? To some it is, to me I don’t know. There’s more to a heart then one tragic moment. He was born April 3rd, 1944 and thought of himself as a rhythm pianist, just good enough to pound out some Ray Charles chords to be dangerous. He was so much more.
In 1961 the group of men that would eventually become The Band were together for the first time. They called themselves The Hawks after the man they backed Ronnie Hawkins and played god-be-damned rockabilly and blues; Levon Helm, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, Robbie Robertson, and Richard Manuel. Their history is easily found, their legacy heard wherever good music is played.
Manuel, like so many of our soul singers, grew up singing in the Church. If there ever was to be a case against the increasingly secular world simply listen to the old soul singers, country crooners, and rhythm and blues shouters. Their singing isn’t rooted in technique trying to attain stilted perfection. It’s not impressed with itself, as it always strives for something more, something not found in studios or books. It was found in Sam Cooke, Jim Ford, and Sammi Smith. It was in every bone of Richard Manuel’s body.
The Band was once and never will be again. They remain the deep tissue of American music and Manuel’s baritone and ghostly falsetto would serve as a guiding light, not exactly dictating, but simply like a candle burning in a window showing the way home.
I Shall Be Released