Rick Danko, “Times Like These” from Times Like These (2000): Across the Great Divide

You don’t hear the winking impishness; you don’t hear the happy-go-lucky scoundrel. At this point, and maybe it’s just because of what we know about the arrival of Rick Danko’s “Times Like These,” all that’s left is a devastating sadness.

But in the deepening well of that emotion, as this posthumous recording unfolds, there’s still something left of Danko – and for that, we can be ever thankful. He could still bring you close in a moment of absorbing emotion, even if there weren’t many more of these moments left.

At the time of his December 1999 passing, Rick Danko was at work on an album to follow up to 1999’s Live on Breeze Hill. Named after this track, the subsequent project was ultimately finished with help from his 1990s-era cohorts in the Band and Aaron Hurwitz. Somehow, highlights arrived aplenty, but perhaps nowhere more than this original.

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Danko had been batting around “Times Like These” for some time, singing it backstage, in hotels and at soundchecks. It’s hard to hear, as he offers a gorgeous moment of encouragement through very bad times, just why this song went unrecorded. I can’t help but be thankful that it belatedly was. “Times Like These” is the equal to anything he released as part of either the Danko Fjeld Anderson projects or with the modern-era Band, save for “Book Faded Brown” – which Rick Danko actually takes another turn with as part of Times Like These, as well.

A sparse accompaniment, powered along by a gloriously Fellini-esque accordion and the soft entreaties of backing singers Leslie Ritter and Marie Spinosa, only adds to the crepuscular atmosphere surrounding “Times Like These.” When the song ends, as surely it must, there’s the feeling of coming awake after a beautiful – if powerfully sad – reverie.

You suddenly remember, all over again, that Rick Danko is long gone. But his admonishments here seem to have a strange prophetic quality, as if he was already encouraging us in his absence.

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