The Band recognized that while the soul of a song lived in its performance, its style was found in the arrangement. "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" is an exquisitely structured song: acoustic guitar frames the verses, Levon Helm's drums roll into a moving chorus, and Garth Hudson adds faux harmonica with organ and a real trumpet. Recorded in 1969 and released on the Band's self-titled second album, the song's arrangement created a dramatic tableau for the poignant vocals. It's perhaps ironic that rock's most famous song about the Civil War was written by a Canadian, Robbie Roberston. It had to be sung, however, by the Band's only U.S. citizen: Arkansas native Helm. Helm is as vividly natural in this Southern role as when he played Loretta Lynn's father in the film Coal Miner's Daughter. The song's Virgil Caine meets his rebel's death, and he dies nobly. Joan Baez' cover of "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," which appeared on her album Blessed Are…, reached Number Three on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1971. The Band were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.
Listen to and learn the stories behind the Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's unique app. This app features clips of more than 500 songs, each with cover art, and fascinating artist and recording notes. The searchable list of songs is also divided among decades and artists, so finding and hearing exactly what you want is easy. It's perfect for trivia buffs, music lovers and fans of rock and roll. Click here to learn more!