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BeatTips MusicStudy: The Band’s “King Harvest” Gives Lesson in Groove

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The Melody Talks, But the Groove Tells It Like It Is

By AMIR SAID (SA’ID)

When it comes to music, there is little more truthful than the groove. If you listen to it, open it up, and unpack what’s going on, you’ll always find just what the song’s feel and sound is all about. This is one of the reasons that I’m always drawn to the groove of any song. No matter the melody, for me, it’s the groove(s) that ultimately either makes it or breaks a song.

One of my favorite grooves of all time is the one found on the song “King Harvest,” by the group The Band. Powered by the flawlessly funky drum-work of Levon Helm, “King Harvest” moves with a rhythmic focus that is as much funk as it is southern rock; as much Woodstock jam session as it is Memphis blues rock. Robbie Robertson’s guitar work whines and twangs, spilling out a funky blues that moves between laid-back cool and jam-solo bravado. The keys are a split duty affair. Richard Manuel, who also does lead vocal work, plays a steady, but artfully understated piano. And Garth Hudson handles the organ, making it bake, roll, and moan at the various “frenzy” points in the number. Finally, Rick Danko makes everything warmer with his fat, but deliberately soft bass playing. (I learned a lot about arranging bass parts listening to this song.)

Of the various things worth studying in “King Harvest,” pay attention to the instrumental “cool-down” that takes place at the arrival of the chorus. Next, pay careful attention to how the band glides from the chorus, right back into the groove. Incredible. Also, be sure to study the little jam session warm-up just before that rip off the main number.

The music and videos below are presented here for the purpose of scholarship.

The Band – “King Harvest,” from The Band in Woodstock


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About Author

Amir Said (aka Sa’id) is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of BeatTips. A writer, publisher, and beatmaker/rapper from New York, Said is the author of a number of books, including ‘The BeatTips Manual,’ ‘The Art of Sampling,’ ‘Ghetto Brother,’ and ‘The Truth About New York.’ He is also a recording artist with a number of music projects, including his latest album 'The Best of Times.' Follow him on Twitter at: @amirsaid and @BeatTipsManual