Playing For Change, a global nonprofit which helps provide music education to young people around the world, has just released a collaborative version of Robbie Robertson‘s “The Weight,” the classic song recorded by The Band in 1969 for their debut album, Music From Big Pink.
In the video, which leads with the words “Celebrating the 50th anniversary of a song that transcends time & space,” Beatles drummer Ringo Starr is the first person on screen, sitting behind his kit with a cell phone in his hand, jokingly asking “What key is it in, Robbie? F demented?”
Then Robertson, in another city, kicks off the song playing the opening lick on guitar from a Los Angeles park bench, before Marcus King comes in on guitar and vocals from Greenville, South Carolina.
Throughout the course of the song, musicians participate from all over the world — including Japan, Italy, Nepal, Democratic Republic of Congo, Bahrain (interestingly, no Canada where Robertson was born) — on instruments ranging from traditional guitar to sitar and oud.
“The Playing For Change people and my son Sebastian, they just did it,” Robertson told Billboard. “I’ve seen others and they’re fantastic. And I know Mark Johnson, the guy that heads Playing For Change. I’ve known him since they started doing that and they said, ‘We’ve got this guy from Africa and this guy from the Middle East and these people and those people,’ and I was like, ‘Wow, I hope it works out.’ And then they got Ringo and he’s so terrific and funny.”
Robertson, who previewed “The Weight” video after the world premiere screening of his new documentary, Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band, at the Toronto International Film Festival two weeks ago, said he sat on the bench with headphones, hearing just some of the other musicians.
“I’m not hearing everybody because it wasn’t all done when I did it. There was a couple that were in there and they sang and I played and sang along. I just did what they asked me to do and kind of forgot about it. Then they came back when it was done and I thought, ‘Holy moly, this is really, really lovely.”