||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (February 2012)|
|Song by The Band from the album Music from Big Pink|
|Released||July 1, 1968|
|Genre||psychedelic rock, roots rock|
|Music from Big Pink track listing|
"Chest Fever" is a song recorded by The Band on its 1968 debut, Music from Big Pink. It is, according to Peter Viney, a historian of the group, “the Big Pink track that has appeared on most subsequent live albums and compilations,” second only to The Weight. The music for the piece was written by Robbie Robertson, guitarist and vocalist. Total authorship is typically credited solely to Robertson, although the lyrics, according to Levon Helm, were originally improvised by Levon Helm and Richard Manuel, telling the story of a man who becomes sick when he is spurned by the woman he loves.
Robertson has since said the lyrics were nonsensical, used only while the instrumental tracks were recorded. "I'm not sure that I know the words to 'Chest Fever'; I'm not even so sure there are words to 'Chest Fever'." He has also stated the entirety of the song does not make sense.
The song featured a dramatic solo organ intro played by Garth Hudson. The introduction is based on Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor. In live performances, this solo evolved into an improvisation drawing from numerous musical styles and lasting several minutes. "When Levon Helm has complained about the share out of royalties at this period, this is the song he quotes," states Viney. "His theme is that Garth's contribution was always grossly under-estimated and under-credited. As he says, 'what do you remember about 'Chest Fever' - the lyrics or the organ part?'"
Viney notes that, despite the death of Richard Manuel later line ups of The Band continued to perform "Chest Fever" with Helm singing lead vocals. It "rapidly became an on-stage showpiece for Garth's organ", and as such it was an essential song. The intro was a improvisation piece called "The Genetic Method".
He says the definitive recordings of the song can be found on "Live in Washinton," (sic) an Italian bootleg of the group’s 1976 King Biscuit Flower Hour performance, or the version on The Complete Last Waltz.
The song has been covered numerous times by bands including Three Dog Night and, most recently, the rootsy jam bands Widespread Panic and Tishamingo. It has also been covered by John Mayer during his Battle Studies tour.
- Music from Big Pink 1968
- Rock of Ages 1972
- Anthology 1978
- Band Gift Set 1989
- To Kingdom Come 1989
- Collection [Castle] 1993
- Across the Great Divide 1994
- Most of the Band 1994
- Greatest Hits 2000
- Live at Loreley 2001
- Rock of Ages [Deluxe Edition] 2001
- Moon Struck One 2002
- Very Best Album Ever 2002
- Rock of Ages [Bonus CD] 2004
- Music from Big Pink [Bonus Tracks] 2003
- Musical History [CD/DVD Box Set] 2005
- In Concert 1997
- Live on Breeze Hill 1999
- Whispering Pines: Live at the Getaway [Japan] 2002
- Whispering Pines: Live at the Gateway 1985 2005
Three Dog Night 1969 Three Dog Night: Live 1988 Captured Live at the Forum/Harmony 2006/1969 Three Dog Night/Suitable for Framing 2004
Endless Highway: The Music of The Band 2007
The Point 2007
Punctuated Equilibrium 2009 (vinyl edition only)
- "Peter Viney on "Chest Fever"". Theband.hiof.no. Retrieved 2012-02-09.
- Levon Helm and Stephen Davis. This Wheel's on Fire: Levon Helm and the Story of the Band
- "CD Review: Band Tribute Album Lavishes Praise With Little Originality: Record Pays Homage To '60s Rock Legends," David Hyland, Soundbytes, NBC4.com website, February 5, 2007 http://www.nbc4.com/entertainment/10888401/detail.html
- "Chest Fever", All Music website http://www.allmusic.com/song/t6085665
- Viney, Peter, "Chest Fever," 1997, Jan Høiberg’s The Band website http://theband.hiof.no/articles/chest_fever_viney.html