The Weight was composed by Robbie Robertson and originally recorded by his group, The Band. The song was sung by The Band’s drummer, (and fellow Arkansan) Levon Helm. Randy, Spence and I are all from Arkansas, and Spence & I grew up in Fort Smith. In our little town, there was a bar called Old Town Grain & Feed, where live acts would come and play from time-to-time, Levon Helm being one of them. We had a mutual friend who played saxophone in his parents’ band, and through that affiliation, we were granted access to live music…long before we were “drinking age”. Needless to say, when Levon Helm passed earlier this year, we felt compelled to tribute our fellow Arkansan. It came down to either The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, or The Weight.
Just before we began recording The Way Back Home, we were contacted by two old friends, Mac Powell (Third Day) and Bart Millard (Mercy Me). They each said they wanted to join us on a song, and as it turned out, The Weight happened to have enough verses for everyone to sing along. Plus, it had that killer 3 part harmony at the end of the choruses! One of my favorite moments on the album, mainly because of the graciousness of our colleagues and the kindness they showed us as we began the journey “back home”.
While not written to be a gospel song, we consider its message to be quite profound. The Weight is the story of a man on his way into town who was asked by a friend to deliver a message. But on his journey to town, everyone he meets asks him to do them a favor, to carry a “burden”, as it were. So, by the end of the song, we find the main character with a bag that’s “sinking low” under the weight of everyone else’s burdens. And for that dilemma, we find a gospel solution in that Jesus bore our transgressions and carried our iniquities all the way to and upon the cross.