It was 44 Thanksgivings ago (November 25th, 1976) that the Band played its most famous — and final — concert. Billed as The Last Waltz, the show at Winterland in San Francisco featured the group, along with an all-star guest list, in what became the farewell performance of the original quintet. Among the friends on the bill that night were Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Van Morrison, Ringo Starr, Ron Wood, Ronnie Hawkins, Dr. John, Muddy Waters, Neil Diamond, and Joni Mitchell. The legendary movie, directed by Martin Scorsese, opened on April 26th, 1978 and is largely believed to be the greatest big screen concert film of all time.
Band leader Robbie Robertson told us that the events leading up to the Band's swan song were truly disturbing to him: “In a certain period leading up to The Last Waltz, it felt really crazy out there. When we were in Malibu, or on the road, and everywhere, everything was distorted in life. Everything was bent. So, part of the reason, leading up to The Last Waltz, was, like, can we do this before something terrible happens?”
Robertson told us that he saw the Band parting ways — if only temporarily — was crucial to their personal survival: “So many people, y'know, that we knew were dying. It was a reckless, reckless period. So you say, 'Wait a minute. Let's get in a huddle here and figure out how we don't go over the cliff. What can we do? What can we do in celebration of our music, our brotherhood — everything that we stand for. What can we do?' And then, let's shut it down.”