Their vocals were often 3-part harmonies with Helm, Manuel, and Danko.
They were playing clubs as The Hawks when Bob Dylan
asked them to be his backup band on his first electric tour. They were often booed by audiences who felt Dylan had sold out his folk fans.
Robertson, Danko, Manuel, and Hudson are Canadian. Robertson is Canadian by birth, but his heritage is half-Jewish and half-American Indian.
Bob Dylan got in a motorcycle accident while they were backing him on tour. Looking for a place to live and work while Dylan recovered, they rented a big, pink house in upstate New York (West Saugerties), where they recorded demos for their first album, Music From Big Pink, in the basement.
Robertson did a stint as a "creative executive" at DreamWorks Records.
Their second album, The Band, was recorded at Sammy Davis Jr.'s house, which they had rented.
They became known as "The Band" when they were living in Big Pink and locals recognized them as members of Dylan's backing band. When folks would spot one of them, they would remark that he was in "the band." That's the name the went with when they made a record.
The Woodstock festival was a bad experience for The Band, who were the only local act - they lived nearby and had to contend with tourists for the next few years. They were paid more for their performance then many other artists, including Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, The Grateful Dead, and The Who. They played the last night and left right after their set.
Songwriting credits and royalty payments were a contentious issue for The Band. Robertson was listed as the composer on most of the songs, even though the others helped write them. As a result, Robertson continues to get most of the royalties from the songs.
They played the Watkins Glen Festival on July 28, 1973 along with The Allman Brothers and The Grateful Dead. With over 600,000 people, it was the largest US concert ever.
The Band performed their last concert on November 24, 1976 at Winterland in San Francisco. In 1978, the movie The Last Waltz, about this concert, was released. November 24 was the same day Eric Clapton had played Cream's farewell concert in 1968. It was partially because of The Band's music that Clapton decided to leave Cream. (thanks, James - Tracy, CA)
Levon Helm inspired the name for the title character in Elton John's "Levon
They are a huge influence on Eric Clapton, who was in Cream when Music From Big Pink came out. Clapton formed Blind Faith with the idea of making music with more direction and fewer extended solos, which were the trademark of Cream. The Band played on his albums No Reason To Cry (1976) and August (1986). (thanks, Joey - Athens, GA)
Regarding their split, Robertson said (in Q magazine): "I was responsible for the break up of The Band. But did I do it on a whim? I don't think so! Drugs and alcohol were the real destruction of The Band – but that's always underplayed."
When they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, only three members were there. Levon Helm chose not to attend and Richard Manuel had died. When they played, Eric Clapton joined them to fill in the sound.
In 1969, these guys became the first Canadian band to appear on the cover of Time magazine. They were heralded as "The first to match the excellence of the Beatles."
Helm has gone on to an acting career. He played Loretta Lynn's father in Coal Miner's Daughter and appeared in The Right Stuff.
Levon Helm and Garth Hudson played drums and Hammond organ on Norah Jones' song "What Am I To You." (thanks, Lee - Mobile, AL)
Plagued by drug and alcohol problems, Manual hanged himself after a show in Florida in 1986.
Levon Helm was honored in Woodstock, New York, as the town saluted him by making May 20th, 2006 "Levon Helm Day." Helm has lived there since the '60s, and he got the key to the city as part of the honor.
Helm and his band do a regular monthly gig called a "Midnight Ramble" at his barn, which is also a recording studio. The shows often attract special guests, and Elvis Costello and Steely Dan singer-keyboardist Donald Fagen have made appearances. (thanks, Stevie Lee - radio personality @ 1077 WSFR - Louisville, KY, for above 2)
Robertson and the director Martin Scorsese became good friends after Scorsese directed The Last Waltz. They lived together for a while, and Robertson often worked on the music for Scorsese's films; he contributed songs or worked as a music consultant on The Departed, Gangs Of New York, Raging Bull, The Color Of Money and Shutter Island. (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)