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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

You Don't Know Me - Richard Manuel/The Band

Richard George Manuel (April 3, 1943 – March 4, 1986) was a Canadian composer, singer, and multi-instrumentalist, best known for his contributions to and membership in The Band. Richard Manuel was born in Stratford, Ontario, Canada. His father Ed was a mechanic employed at a Chrysler dealership, and his mother was a schoolteacher. He was raised with his three brothers, and the four sang in the church choir. Manuel took piano lessons beginning when he was nine, and enjoyed playing piano and rehearsing with friends at his home. Some of his childhood influences were Ray Charles, Bobby Bland, Jimmy Reed and Otis Rush. He was given the nickname "The Beak" by his friends because of his prominent nose. Manuel, top-left, with The Revols in 1958. He and three friends started a band when he was fifteen, originally named the Rebels but later changed to The Revols, in deference to Duane Eddy and the Rebels. The group also included Ken Kalmusky, a founding member of Great Speckled Bird, and John Till, a founding member of the Full Tilt Boogie Band. Manuel developed a rhythmic style of piano unique in its usage of inverted chord structures. He was also a naturally talented vocalist, with a soulful rhythm and blues style, and a rich timbre, often compared to that of Ray Charles. These talents were showcased in The Revols. Manuel first became acquainted with Ronnie Hawkins and The Hawks when The Revols opened for them in Port Dover, Ontario. According to Levon Helm, Hawkins remarked to him about Manuel: "See that kid playing piano? He's got more talent than Van Cliburn." The two bands once again connected at the Stratford Coliseum in 1961 when The Revols ended a show featuring The Hawks as headliners. After hearing Manuel singing "Georgia on My Mind", Hawkins hired The Revols' pianist rather than competing with them. Manuel was eighteen when he joined Ronnie Hawkins' backing group The Hawks. At this time the band already consisted of 21-year-old Levon Helm on drums, 17-year-old Robbie Robertson on guitar and 18-year-old Rick Danko on bass. Garth Hudson, at 24 years old, joined that Christmas. After two years, Manuel left the Hawks and joined with Helm, Robertson, Danko, Hudson and saxophonist Jerry Penfound to form their own band. Singer Bruce Bruno also joined them upon occasion. Initially, they were known as the Levon Helm Sextet (as Helm had accumulated the most time with Hawkins), then later changed their name to the Canadian Squires and then to Levon and the Hawks. With Helm serving as nominal leader due to his longevity with the Hawkins group, it was in fact Manuel who sang most of the songs in the group's repertoire. Manuel was easily the most accomplished vocalist from a technical standpoint. It was as Levon and the Hawks, after the departure of Penfound and Bruno, that they introduced themselves to their blues hero, Sonny Boy Williamson. They soon planned a collaboration with Williamson but it never happened due to Williamson's untimely death soon after. In 1965 Helm, Hudson and Robertson helped back American bluesman John P. Hammond on his album So Many Roads. Hammond recommended The Hawks to Bob Dylan, who tapped them to serve as his backing band while he switched to an electric sound. In 1966, they toured Europe and the U.S. with Dylan and were known for enduring the ire of Dylan's folk fans, and were subjected to much unpleasant hissing and booing. While they continued to believe in their ultimate goal to play and record their own music, Dylan opened doors for them in the music business by introducing them to his manager, Albert Grossman, and taught them by example about writing their own material. In 1967, while Dylan recovered from a motorcycle accident in Woodstock, New York, the group moved there also, renting a pink house on 100 acres (0.40 km2) and were paid a retainer by Dylan. Not having to be constantly working and traveling allowed them to experiment with a new sound garnered from the country, soul, rhythm and blues, gospel and rockabilly music that they loved. During this time, while Helm had been on a hiatus from the Dylan tour, Manuel taught himself to play drums in a technically irreverent, "loosey-goosey" style, a little behind the beat similar to jazz drumming. In the Band era he would frequently assume the drummer's stool when Helm played mandolin or guitar. Examples of this are the songs "Rag Mama Rag" and "Evangeline". Manuel's drumming is predominant on the album Cahoots. Manuel, right, playing drums with The Band. Hamburg, 1971. The early months in Woodstock also allowed Manuel and Robertson to develop as songwriters. After recording numerous demos, and signing with Dylan's manager, Albert Grossman, they secured a 10-album contract with Capitol Records in early 1968. They originally signed as "The Crackers" (although "The Honkies" had also been considered). Helm rejoined the fold, as sessions got under way for the recording of their debut album Music from Big Pink. The group proceeded to take what they had learned with Dylan and used one of his songs in the process. They combined it with their idea of the perfect album, switching solos, and singing harmony modeled after the gospel sound of musical heroes, The Staple Singers. Manuel contributed four songs, including the oft-covered "Tears of Rage" which he co-wrote with Dylan. Robertson contributed the same number of his own songs. A cover of "Long Black Veil" and a Danko-Dylan collaboration, "This Wheel's on Fire" rounded out the album, which was released with the group name as simply The Band, and this would be their name for the rest of the group's existence. While only reaching No. 30 on the Billboard charts, the album would be profoundly influential upon the nascent country-rock movement; "Tears of Rage" and Robertson's "The Weight" would rank among the most covered songs of the epoch. Shortly after the release of the album, the newly financially secure Manuel married his girlfriend, a young model from Toronto named Jane Kristiansen, whom he had dated intermittently since the Hawks days. They would become the parents of two children. On March 4, 1986, after a gig at the Cheek to Cheek Lounge outside Orlando, in Winter Park, Florida, Manuel committed suicideHe had appeared to be in relatively good spirits but ominously thanked Hudson for "twenty-five years of incredible music". The Band returned to the Quality Inn, down the block from the Cheek to Cheek Lounge, and Manuel talked with Levon Helm about music, film, etc., in Helm's room. According to Helm, at around 2:30 Manuel said he needed to get something from his room. Upon returning to his motel room, it is believed that he finished one last bottle of Grand Marnier before hanging himself. Manuel's wife Arlie—also intoxicated at the time—discovered his body along with the depleted bottle and a small amount of cocaine the following morning. He was buried a week later in his hometown of Stratford, Ontario. In the end of March, Rick Danko declared: "I can't believe in a million years that he meant for that to happen. There was just no sign (...) I have to think this was just a goddamned silly accident." A blood toxicology report indicated that Manuel was drunk and had ingested cocaine the day he died  

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