This internationally popular rock band (1968-76), began c 1960 as The Hawks, the support group for Ronnie Hawkins. Drummer Levon Helm (b at Marvell, Arkansas 26 May 1940) had come north to Ontario with Hawkins. Canadian recruits were guitarist and songwriter Robbie Robertson, bassist Rick Danko (b at Greens Corner, Ont 9 Dec 1943; d at Woodstock, NY 10 Dec 1999), organist Garth Hudson (b at London, Ont 2 Aug 1937) and pianist Richard Manuel (b at Stratford, Ont 3 Apr 1945, d at Winter Park, Fla 4 March 1986). After leaving Hawkins in 1963, the group performed as Levon and the Hawks, The Crackers and The Canadian Squires. Helm and Robertson backed Bob Dylan during his rapid evolution from folk to electric rock in 1965, and the group (again known as The Hawks) backed Dylan on his 1965-66 world tour.
Recording in a pink stuccoed home in West Saugerties, NY, the quintet, reborn as The Band, participated in a series of legendary, oft-bootlegged sessions with Dylan collectively known as The Basement Tapes. The Band also recorded its critically acclaimed debut, Music from Big Pink (1968). That release and such musically kaleidoscopic albums as The Band, Stage Fright and the landmark live recording Rock of Ages included such signature songs as "The Weight,""Tears of Rage," Hudson's keyboard showcase "Chest Fever" and their biggest US hit, "Up on Cripple Creek."
The Band reunited with Dylan for an album (Planet Waves) and tour (documented on the live recording Before the Flood) in 1974. Personal differences between Helm and Robertson led to an irrevocable split several years later. The Last Waltz, a farewell concert held at San Francisco's Winterland Ballroom in November 1976, featured guest appearances by Dylan, Hawkins, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Eric Clapton and Ringo Starr, among others. Director Martin Scorsese shot a documentary film of the event.
The Band re-formed minus Robertson in 1986; Manuel committed suicide on March 4 while the group was on tour in Florida. With Helm, Hudson and Danko joined by new sidemen, The Band released Jericho, its first studio album in 18 years, in 1993; the lineup also recorded High on the Hog (1996) and Jubilation (1998). The box-set anthology Across the Great Divide (1994) features material dating back to the Hawkins era. It was overshadowed by the Grammy Award-nominated 5-CD package A Musical History (2005), which was assembled by Robertson and concluded a complete remastering and reissue series of The Band's catalogue by Capitol-EMI Records. The Band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.