The Band, “Where I Should Always Be” from High on the Hog (1996): Across the Great Divide

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A song that boasts this aching classicism, “Where I Should Always Be” finds Rick Danko exploring the deeply fragile high end of his vocal range — recalling some of his most important early turns with the Band. A high point on 1996’s High On the Hog, it actually comes off as a canny mixture of “It Makes No Difference” and Richard Manuel’s “Share Your Love (With Me).”

For a long time, however, “Where I Should Always Be” seemed more of a miniature success, an opportunity for Danko to explore the roiling emotions of those earlier times without necessarily superseding them. It’s sweet and sad, twilit and enveloping — and, certainly, something that should have made its way into his late-period live set — but more reminiscent of Danko’s best moments than something that could ever replace them.

And that seemed fine with him. “Where I Should Always Be” tended to echo Danko’s mantra of this more homey era: “Thirty years ago, we wanted to change the world. Now, we know we’re not going to change the world — but we’re definitely here to help the neighborhood.”

Things change, though, and my sense about “Where I Should Always Be” has, too. It’s taken on more resonance in the 15 years since Danko’s sudden passing. Written by long-time Band confederate Blondie Chaplin, this song — made complete by these reliably deft touches on the sax from Danko’s old friend Garth Hudson — has come to work as a lasting lament for a lost figure, gone far too soon.

Chaplin, who appeared on Danko’s first solo album, was part of the Band’s initial tours after Richard Manuel’s 1986 death. Hudson also worked on a 1977 solo project from Chaplin, who is best known for an early-1970s stint with the Beach Boys around the time of the deeply underrated Holland.

Together here again, they create something that keeps becoming more meaningful with each passing season of Rick Danko’s absence. Turns out, a small gift from him, impossible to come by any more, doesn’t seem so small at all these days.

Across the Great Divide is a weekly, song-by-song examination from Something Else! on the legacy of the Band, both together and as solo artists. The series runs on Thursdays.

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