Fallen Angel

Album: Robbie Robertson (1987)
Play Video

Songfacts®:

  • This song is an elegy to Richard Manuel, who along with Robbie Robertson, was one of the original members of The Band. Manuel, who was the Band's pianist and sometimes vocalist, was found hanging in the bathroom of a motel room in Winter Park, Florida on March 4, 1986. The group had re-formed (without Robertson) and played in Winter Park, Florida the preceding night. Manuel had serious problems with addiction for most of his life, but got sober when The Band started touring again in the '80s. He began abusing drugs and alcohol again in 1985, which likely contributed to his death.

    Eric Clapton's "Holy Mother" on his 1986 album August is also a tribute to Richard Manuel as is "Too Soon Gone," The Band's tribute to Richard from their 1993 album Jericho.
  • "Fallen Angel" was the first single Robertson released as a solo artist. He wrote the song with Martin Page, who had co-written the hits "These Dreams" and "We Built This City." In our interview with Page, he explained: "Robbie was playing with lyrical ideas for a huge period of time and every time I would go back to the Village (the recording studio in Los Angeles) to work with him, it was quite frustrating, because I thought we were doing very well and he'd say, 'I've changed the words.' He would sing it and ask me, 'What do you think?' And I'd say, 'Well, I think it's all good, Rob. Really good.' Everything he did I thought was fine.

    But then one special day he called me and he said, 'I really have what this song's about.' At first it was going to be called 'War of Angels,' and it was going to be the idea of fallen angels actually falling out of heaven and touching hell. He was really getting into this kind of biblical place. But all of a sudden, very emotionally he said to me, 'It's about Richard.' And I could see in his face that he'd nailed it. It was his special song to Richard Manuel. I think it was a great testament to his undying friendship for his friend who left a little too early."
  • This song features Peter Gabriel on keyboards. Gabriel also provides vocals on the chorus accompanying Robbie Robertson.
  • The Robbie Robertson album won the Juno Award for Album of the Year in 1989.

Comments: 5

  • Steve from Phliladelphia, PaNice tribute to a really great vocalist/musician/performer. I saw him and Rick Denko in Seaside NJ around 1976. They did a short gig in a seashore town. I have no idea why. He was great. I listened to the Band's music when I was in the Army in 1970-1972. Their music along with the Moody Blues music helped me get through. Loved all the work of the Band
  • Jim from Long Beach, CaKenny in LA. You are correct. Richard Manuel girl/wife was living in Santa Monica @ the time(late 80's)
  • Harrill from North Myrtle Beach,sc, ScManuel was reffered to by the other 2 singers in "The Band" as THE lead singer. He should be credited with that.
  • Kevin from Reading , PaI have to take a little exception to the "sometimes vocalist" description. It makes it sound as if Manuel do the odd vocal here or there. Not true! Manuel, Rick Danko and Leveon Helm were a unique three-pronged lead vocal attack. If you added up all the time spent singing on all of the group's songs, it would be about equal, with Manuel probably coming out on top. More importantly, he was the most accomplished singer in The Band and flat-out one of the best ballad singers ever in rock. His is the lead voice on "I Shall Be Released," "Right as Rain," "Chest Fever," "Shape I'm In," "Tears of Rage," and many, many others.
  • Kenny from Los Angeles, CaIn the late 80's my roommate worked at an Indian restaurant in Santa Monica. He knew i was a fan of the Band and one day told me that Manuel's wife was a hostess there. i think it was called Dharba. I never met her though
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Ian Gillan of Deep Purple

Ian Gillan of Deep PurpleSongwriter Interviews

Deep Purple frontman Ian Gillan explains the "few red lights" in "Smoke On The Water" and talks about songs from their 2020 album Whoosh!

Songs in Famous Movie Scenes: '80s Edition

Songs in Famous Movie Scenes: '80s EditionMusic Quiz

You know the scenes - Tom Cruise in his own pants-off dance off, Molly Ringwald celebrating her birthday - but do you remember what song is playing?

Wherefore Art Thou Romeo Lyric

Wherefore Art Thou Romeo LyricMusic Quiz

In this quiz, spot the artist who put Romeo into a song lyric.

Tom Waits Lyrics Quiz

Tom Waits Lyrics QuizMusic Quiz

Pool balls, magpies and thorns without roses - how well do you know your Tom Waits lyrics?

We Will Rock You (To Sleep): Pop Stars Who Recorded Kids' Albums

We Will Rock You (To Sleep): Pop Stars Who Recorded Kids' AlbumsSong Writing

With the rise of Kindie rock, more musicians are embracing their inner child with tunes for tots - here, we look at pop stars who recorded kids' albums.

Dennis DeYoung

Dennis DeYoungSongwriter Interviews

Dennis DeYoung explains why "Mr. Roboto" is the defining Styx song, and what the "gathering of angels" represents in "Come Sail Away."