As a nearly life-long Dylan fan who discovered him with Bringing It All Back Home in 1965 as a pre-teen, I believe Bob Dylan and The Band: Down in the Flood is the finest documentary about Dylan as well as about The Band that there has been so far. The film covers the collaboration of Dylan with The Band from the first rehearsals in 1965 until The Last Waltz in 1976.
Dylan had already made his name as a folk singer and was practically worshiped by the folk-music community. Today, it is hard to remember what a divide there was between folk, country, and pop music in the early ’60s. Many fans felt betrayed when Dylan went electric. They thought he had sold out.
Luckily, The Band was not intimidated by the boos and insults thrown at Dylan in the early electric concerts, because they had got their start backing up Ronnie Hawkins, a rock and roll singer in the classic style who played clubs throughout Canada.
In those days, The Band were The Hawks and they played some rough places where things sometimes got physical. Because of this, they were able to ignore everything and just play on beyond Dylan when the crowd got loud and abusive.
Thanks to this, the four Canadians, the good old boy from Arkansas, and the Jewish kid from Minnesota were able to maintain one of the most influential partnerships in the history of rock music, changing the face of the music world both together and separately forever. They brought Americana into popular music, blending blues, rock, and country on Dylan’s albums and tours and on the legendary recordings they made in Woodstock during the ’60s that led to rock’s first bootleg recording, Great White Wonder.
Of course, The Band themselves created musical history with their Music From Big Pink and even more so with The Band, which contained genre-blending songs like “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” and “Up on Cripple Creek.”
This documentary includes new footage and rare recordings of songs, as well as expert commentary from John Simon, who produced the first two Band albums, rock journalist Robert Christgau, and other experts. There are also memorable anecdotes from Mickey Jones, who played drums with The Band during Levon Helm’s absence in 1966; Charlie McCoy, who played on Dylan’s Nashville recordings; and Garth Hudson, the talented organist for The Band.
Over all, this documentary provides fabulous insight into Dylan, The Band, and their impact on music then and now. It is a must for any fan of Dylan, The Band, or the history of popular music.