The Band, “She Knows” from High on the Hog (1996): Across the Great Divide

This is, at least thus far, the last we’ve heard of Richard Manuel — who was, of course, the first thing we heard of the Band. From his plaintive introductory vocal on “Tears of Rage,” on 1968’s Music from Big Pink, until these final recordings from 1986, Manuel had seen, had felt, and had sung about many things. He left us with one last gorgeous gift.

“She Knows,” originally part of a January 19, 1986 performance that included Band mate Rick Danko, wouldn’t appear for another 10 years with the release of their penultimate album High on the Hog. History tells us, sadly, that Manuel would be found dead less than two months later in a Winter Park, Florida, hotel room on March 4, 1986.

That left Danko, Levon Helm and Garth Hudson to forge ahead, completing “Country Boy” (another posthumous song originally recorded on October 1985) for their comeback recording Jericho in 1993. There’s something more personal about this second lost Richard Manuel moment, however, which unfolds with more emotional fragility — and far more finality.

Written by James Griffin and Robb Royer, “She Knows” (at least in its initial incarnation by Griffin, of Bread fame) never had this kind of pathos before, and that ability to find a darker well of meaning was always Manuel’s most remarkable skill. Building off the obvious reference point of Ray Charles’ 1978 update for Love and Peace, he showed one final time why Danko and Helm (both of them stirring vocalists in their own right) always saw Richard Manuel as the Band’s frontman.

He could still do something that they often couldn’t — though that’s no insult. Almost nobody could.

Band co-producer Aaron Hurwitz and Garth Hudson completed post-production on the original Lone Star Cafe recording, with Hudson providing both the string arrangement and a heart-squeezing turn on the saxophone. Hurwitz, in fact, worked as an engineer and/or producer on all of the Band’s 1990s-era recordings, concluding with 1998’s Jubilation. He also sat in on a string of live sets with Rick Danko, one of which was released in 1999 as Live on Breeze Hill. A few months later, Danko would be gone, too.

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.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso