Rick Danko has always been my favorite member of the Band. Richard may have been a better singer. Robbie was a better songwriter. Garth was a better musician. But that heartbreaking crack in Danko's voice will get me every time.
These two videos are from March 1st, 1991, on CNBC's "Real Story". Watching Danko here, I feel a little sorry for him. He patiently answers lame questions from a hack TV host. He sings into a crappy microphone, trying to get a few people to sing along. He soldiers on.
I missed a chance to see Danko play live, shortly before he died in 1999. He was at a club on Clement Street in San Francisco. I couldn't believe he was playing such a tiny place. And I could have walked there but didn't make it for some reason.
In his book, This Wheel's On Fire, Levon Helm blames Robbie Robertson for Danko's death at age 56. Helm rails bitterly at Robertson throughout the book, claiming he and the other Band members were screwed out of songwriting royalties.
But the hell of it is, Rick still died with his money in their goddamned pockets. That's the hell of it. If Rick's money wasn't in their pockets, I don't think Rick would have died because Rick worked himself to death. Rick liked to live with his family the way they liked to live, and to live that way he had to work all the time.
I know he's in a better place and all that bullshit. My beef is that he didn't have to be there yet - not at fifty-six years old. Rick worked too hard. He wasn't that old and he wasn't that sick. He just worked himself to death. And the reason Rick had to work all the time was because he'd been fucked out of his money.
I hope that's not true. I hope at least part of the reason Danko was still out there touring and playing music was because he loved it.