While he almost certainly didn’t learn to play piano in 21 days through an online workbook and practice, Richard Manuel started his first band at the age of 15. He was 18 years old when he joined The Hawks, who later became The Band, who later produced Music from Big Pink, funded almost entirely by hiding music superstar of the day Bob Dylan. Pretty good career trajectory!
Manuel wrote the melody for the Dylan track Tears of Rage. This, along with Robertson’s The Weight, became one of the most covered songs of the era.
Manuel spent the first part of the 1970s taking small acting roles while dealing with substance abuse issues and eventually The Band went back to performing live, often with Bob Dylan. He also toured with Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Joni Mitchell, the Beach Boys, and Eric Clapton and yet, was plagued by addiction, suicide attempts, and self-imposed reclusion.
After the success of The Last Waltz, Manuel moved to a ranch outside of Malibu and finally began the work to become sober while maintaining a small touring musical duo with Terry Danko. He spent the 1980’s trying unsuccessfully to bring The Band back together in different iterations.
Richard Manuel committed suicide on March 4, 1986.
That brings us to this entry’s discussion points. I’m curious about the correlation between artists and mental anguish. Sound off in the comments, friends!
- Does the correlation between mental illness and the production of art self-perpetuate? Or said another way, do those who suffer from mental illness become artists? Or do artists develop mental illness?
- How does the mental state of the artist affect the public’s ability to appreciate the art?
- And finally, does the mental state of one member of a band extend to the bad as a whole or does Richard Manuel stand on his own?