Earlier in the 350 Jersey Songs series, I featured a video of Bruce Springsteen singing The Band’s “The Weight” in tribute to the group’s late singer-drummer, Levon Helm. Today, it’s the opposite, in a way, with Helm and The Band performing Springsteen’s “Atlantic City.”
The Band, of course, presented a farewell concert in 1976, but re-grouped in 1983, without original guitarist-songwriter Robbie Robinson. Singer-pianist Richard Manuel died in 1986, but they kept going until the death of singer-bassist Rick Danko in 1999. They released three post-Robertson albums, including Jericho, in 1993, which included their folksy cover of “Atlantic City”; it’s often mentioned as one of the greatest Springsteen covers.
The clip below shows them performing the song on “The Today Show” soon after the album came out. It’s a fine performance, but also make sure to catch the playful look Danko gives the camera at around the 2:30 mark; it’s priceless. The pre-performance interview by Brian Williams is skippable, though those interested in his apparent tendency to elaborate on the truth might want to make note of the fact that he says The Band “headlined” Woodstock (not true, though they did perform), and tries to sell Helm on the idea that Springsteen might have written the song with him in mind (something I’ve never heard anyone else suggest).
Originally released on Springsteen’s 1982 Nebraska album, “Atlantic City” is a dark, film noir-ish kind of song; The Band’s version seems to connect its fatalism (“Everything dies, baby, that’s a fact”) to the tradition of Appalachian murder ballads.
New Jersey celebrated its 350th birthday in 2014. And in the 350 Jersey Songs series, we marked the occasion by posting 350 songs — one a day, from September 2014 to September 2015 — that have something to do with the state, its musical history, or both. To see the entire list, click here.