The Weight tells the story of a man who visits the town of Nazareth (Pennsylvania), and is asked by his friend Annie to visit several of her friends. “The Weight” that is his load are the people he promised he would check on. The song was written by Robbie Robertson. Robbie says this was influenced by the work of Luis Bunuel, a Mexican director. Robertson was intrigued by the characters in Luis Bunuel’s films, who were often good people who did bad things. Nazareth, where the story takes place, refers to the town in Pennsylvania about 70 miles north of Philadelphia. The rock group Nazareth got their name from this line (“Went down to Nazareth, I was feeling about half past dead…”). Robbie is quoted as saying that he chose that place because they make legendary Martin Guitars there. The characters in the song – Crazy Chester, Luke, Anna Lee, are based on friends of the band. Below you will find two other versions on the song by Weezer and Aretha Franklin. The Band played this at Woodstock in 1969.
I pulled into Nazareth, was feelin’ about half past dead;
I just need some place where I can lay my head.
“Hey, mister, can you tell me where a man might find a bed?”
He just grinned and shook my hand, and “No!”, was all he said.
Take a load off Fanny, take a load for free;
Take a load off Fanny, And (and) (and) you can put the load right on me.
I picked up my bag, I went lookin’ for a place to hide;
When I saw Carmen and the Devil walkin’ side by side.
I said, “Hey, Carmen, come on, let’s go downtown.”
She said, “I gotta go, but m’friend can stick around.”
Go down, Miss Moses, there’s nothin’ you can say
It’s just ol’ Luke, and Luke’s waitin’ on the Judgement Day.
“Well, Luke, my friend, what about young Anna Lee?”
He said, “Do me a favor, son, woncha stay an’ keep Anna Lee company?”
Crazy Chester followed me, and he caught me in the fog.
He said, “I will fix your rack, if you’ll take Jack, my dog.”
I said, “Wait a minute, Chester, you know I’m a peaceful man.”
He said, “That’s okay, boy, won’t you feed him when you can.”
Catch a cannon ball now, t’take me down the line
My bag is sinkin’ low and I do believe it’s time.
To get back to Miss Fanny, you know she’s the only one.
Who sent me here with her regards for everyone.
The Weight – Aretha Franklin (1969)
This song was also done by Weezer (2008):
Over the years, the Weight has been done by a lot of artists. Aretha Franklin’s version was the biggest hit, reaching #19 US in 1969, and a version by Diana Ross and the Supremes with The Temptations reached #46 in the US. It has also been covered by: Jackie DeShannon, A Group Called Smith, The Black Crowes, Bob Dylan, Grateful Dead, The Allman Brothers, Joan Osborne, Keller Williams, King Curtis & Duane Allman, Otis & Travis, Rotary Connection, Spooky Tooth, and The Ventures.