‘The Weight' of our ears: Take a load off … who?
April 20th, 2012
03:32 PM ET

‘The Weight' of our ears: Take a load off … who?

The late Levon Helm, who died Thursday, had a wonderfully distinctive voice, but his drawling delivery didn’t always make it easy to discern the words of The Band’s songs – which only added to the music’s charm.

Nevertheless, with Helm’s passing, an old debate has once again flared up: In “The Weight,” is the lyric “Take a load off, Annie” or “Take a load off, Fanny”? In our obituary of Helm, we went with “Annie,” but the CNN newsroom has divided into factions passionately defending one or the other.

The Internet, the world’s biggest game of Telephone, is little help. Some lyrics sites say the former; others go with the latter. The unofficial Band site goes with “Fanny," and has a terrifically detailed list of reasons why –  including an explanation featuring an old girlfriend and her pregnancy (or was it venereal disease?).

Then there’s the performance itself. The studio cut on “Music from Big Pink” has Helm sliding from “off” into the name, which means it could go whichever way your ears are bending. (And one version on YouTube  tries to have it both ways.)

In the final verse, Helm does appear to say, “To get back to Miss Fanny, you know she’s the only one” - but is that the same person referenced in the chorus? And what about “Miss Anna Lee,” who pops up elsewhere in the song?

The live version from “The Last Waltz” doesn’t settle the matter.

Aretha Franklin’s 1969 version, with the great Duane Allman on guitar, seems to lean toward “Annie." On the other hand, the recent video of Mavis Staples singing with Wilco and Nick Lowe has Mavis enunciating “Fanny” pretty clearly.

A publicist for Capitol Records, The Band’s label, says that it’s “Fanny,” offering as evidence an interview she uncovered with songwriter Robbie Robertson. This dovetails with the explanation in Helm’s memoir, “This Wheel’s on Fire,” which explains the genesis of the song and adds, “There were also ‘Carmen and the Devil,’ ‘Miss Moses’ and ‘Fanny,’ a name that just seemed to fit the picture.”

On the other hand, CNN’s Denise Quan spoke to Maud (Mrs. Garth) Hudson, and Mrs. Hudson says it’s “Annie.” (She also told Denise that she thinks it’s funny we’re having such a big debate about it.)

CNN also reached out to songwriter Robbie Robertson. According to his manager, the name is … “Fanny.” So that settles it – right?

Regardless of the name in the chorus, there’s no question “The Weight” remains a resonant song - this almost biblical tale of a weary man looking for rest and finding himself tangled up with a town full of colorful characters. Indeed, it’s perhaps the most covered in The Band’s repertoire, with versions by artists ranging from Joe Cocker to Weezer to Panic! At the Disco.

At such times, there’s only one solution: Listen to the music. Again.

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Filed under: Music • The Throwback

soundoff (230 Responses)
  1. BoBucks

    It is "Fanny" for sure. Yes on the chorus the "Off" bleeds into the "Fanny" but on the last verse Levon sings, "Get back to Miss Fanny / You know she's the only one"... you can distinctly hear the "F" sound in "Fanny".

    August 20, 2013 at 10:16 am | Report abuse |
  2. Yes I'm here

    we were 99 and 3/4 sure months ago...once i have an address or a name....unfortunately they will have to be disconnected.

    November 17, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  3. EL HOMBRE

    Todos son putos! :D

    May 19, 2012 at 10:06 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Online Dating

    I?m no longer positive where you are getting your information, however good topic. I must spend some time studying much more or understanding more. Thank you for magnificent info I was searching for this info for my mission.

    April 24, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Fred

    Worst song ever written. Dumbest article written. You got a two-fer.

    April 24, 2012 at 9:45 am | Report abuse |
  6. wwt

    with a nice stereo, it clearly fannie

    April 23, 2012 at 9:19 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Hilda

    No the lyrica are:
    Shoot a load on my fanny
    shoot a load on me.

    April 23, 2012 at 7:23 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Penelope

    I thought it said "Take a load off Granny.....take a load for me"

    April 23, 2012 at 7:21 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Michelle

    Am I missing something? How did this article become a forum about racism? I guess some people will use any forum to complain about stuff. To get back to the point of this article, the confusion about the lyrics reminds me of Jimi Hendrix's song in which people will swear that he is saying "Scuze me while I kiss this guy". It's all in how you hear it. I always thought Squeeze was saying, "Pulling muscles for Michelle" not "Pulling mussels from the shell" I guess I heard what I wanted to hear. Rest in peace Mr. Helm.

    April 23, 2012 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
  10. joe

    my anus is my center hole

    April 23, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Danny

    It's "Take a load off Danny. Take a load off me"

    April 23, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  12. DMann

    it's "Manny" he sings "take o load of Manny, take a load off man."

    April 23, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Zigman Bird

    I always thought it was "take a load off Jim", but my hearing really isn't what it used to be...

    April 23, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
  14. bouncer bob

    It's fanny. 1 of the local bands that perform at the bar sing this song. Yea, it's fanny.

    April 23, 2012 at 9:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      I've been playing this song for nearly 30 years...and it is ' Take the load off, Fanny'.........

      'Well Luke my friend, what about young Anna Lee ?',
      he said ,"Do me a favor son, won't you stay and keep Anna Lee company".....

      April 23, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
  15. @sadsadlonelyhumans

    Pathetic...considering we all die..some of u dumsh.ts will have an even sh.ttier death, racist for no reason when NONE of you are pure, you are ALL mixed like the rest of the world. No wonder your country doesnt give a fu.k about you, your too ignorant...no just stupid.

    April 23, 2012 at 12:21 am | Report abuse |
  16. 8 miler

    After analizing the video in my top secret facilties. i ascertained that the actually lyrics sung by the alleged culprit is actually....swallow my load mammy....so now i want full credit for this valuable discovery. Id like to be on the cover of all mags and newspapers as well to star in my own sitcom. Since i am single id like also to be the next bachelor...maybe some kind of cash gift would be nice as well..thats it

    April 22, 2012 at 11:58 pm | Report abuse |
  17. David Chipman

    How about a *third* option? "Take a load off Manny"? I'd swear that's what I always heard. Have fun, all.

    April 22, 2012 at 9:42 pm | Report abuse |
  18. Guitarplayer

    People need to watch The Band perform The Weight in the movie The Last Waltz. They perform the song with The Staples (a black R&B/gospel group) and it is awesome. The Band were highly influenced by and had great respect for black artists. Can't believe some of the idiotic comments on this story.

    April 22, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
  19. Muddywolf

    Who cares what the lyrics are, "The Weight" was a great song and Levon Helm was a great singer. The fact that R & B legends like Aretha and Mavis have covered The Band's songs attests to their broad appeal. As a young black kid in 1969 who was into James Brown and Sly Stone, The Band sounded like country funk to me especially the song "Up on Cripple Creek". Garth Hudson's clavinet wah-wah effects on "Cripple Creek" are some of the funkiest keyboards ever put on record, and this proceeded Stevie Wonder's, Billy Preston's, and George Clinton's use of the technique.

    April 22, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
  20. kenneth linton

    I dont have anything to say except all of you guys need to get a life for talking so negative about a bunch of stuff

    April 22, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
  21. Lamar

    You poor 'necks sure sound upset Why don't you take a chew of tobacky and chill out.

    April 22, 2012 at 8:49 am | Report abuse |
  22. costa do sol

    whether "Anny or Fanny " it doesnt matter what matters is that Levon belongs to the American Age of real music and real people and I am proud to belong to that age...! alot can be learned today from this music which people still copy today and turn into horrible aggressive rap and other cacophonies! I salute Levon and "The Band" ...

    April 22, 2012 at 7:23 am | Report abuse |
  23. Skunk-the-Noodle

    The Band wasn't country, they were folk rock and they were among the best.
    It's Fannie in The Weight. Sky in Purple Haze.
    Gaga and Justin in the same breath? Shame on you! Gaga is an artist.
    These idiots aren't black or gay or even getting any, they're just common punks trying to shock the adults.
    Thanks for the music and the memories Levon, sleep well...
    jude fox

    April 21, 2012 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
  24. NObama Been Nothin'

    Jig-abooo. Jig-abooo. I luv you! Jig-abooo. Jig-abooo. I luv you! Jig-abooo. Jig-abooo. I luv you! Jig-abooo. Jig-abooo. I luv you! Jig-abooo. Jig-abooo. I luv you! Jig-abooo. Jig-abooo. I luv you!

    April 21, 2012 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
  25. NObama Been Nothin'

    I be a flamin ho-mo that luvs to pump da gayboyz in da plump rump! I been schlobin their knobs for years! Drop me your digits and I will drop my drawers. I will polish your tool for a 10 spot!!!

    April 21, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
  26. NObama Been Nothin'

    We are talking about music here. Nobody talking about people killing people. Not talking black or white ,brown or yellow. Why is it when blacks don't get their way they yell racism. Racism goes both ways and it sounds more like blacks are racist against everyone else. People are people, if you want to be treated fairly then treat other people fairly. Now back to the topic of music ! Annie or Fanny ? I thought Annie but it may be Fanny! It doesn't matter really, just sing it how you want to! It all ends up at same place! Ted Nugent for President !!!

    April 21, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
  27. Jalisa

    I be a fugly cooon! I luv to hook up with other lez-bo niggs with plump rumps!! I pound dem silly with my strap-on meat stix!!

    April 21, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
  28. Jalisa

    You white peoples make me sick. Whoever heard of these people? There are things going on. White people shooting our youth. We need to be concerned about that. Important stuff is happening.

    April 21, 2012 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
    • sabre

      you should have stayed in school. bitter, bitter, batter.

      April 21, 2012 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Richard

      You should be more concerned with your people shooting your youth. Black on black crime is incredibly high. Most black crime involves only other blacks.

      April 21, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • tiredtraveller

      If you have no "ideas peoples have", then perhaps you're too busy focusing on the negative. And as a PBW, no one would expect you to know either the songs of The Band, or who Levon Helm even is. Shame, really. And you email smacks of the crack educational system so miserably failing this country. All the best, Robbie

      April 21, 2012 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • bluemax

      I didn't see you complain when CNN and all the other media outlets were covering Michael Jackson's death.
      You are so worried about white people killing black kids, how about black people killing black people, no not in Africa, although that's another place to look at, how about all the gang related killings in the big cities of the US. how many hundreds of young blacks get hurt or killed in LA, NY, and the other major cities in the US; And you just keep your mouth shut. Typical.

      April 21, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jalisa

      I iz a steeenky jig-abooo with a chunky poooper! Any of u fugly cooons wanna pack my fudge?

      April 21, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jalisa

      I smell really bad!! My breath will kill an elephant and my pits will knock down a sumo wrestler. My cooochie is all stanky....

      April 21, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • NObama Been Nothin'

      Dumb-ass

      April 21, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Conrad Shull

      Not shooting "your youth" in numbers that can even begin to compare to "your youth" shooting "your youth". Not by hundred miles.

      April 23, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
  29. Juliette G

    No one likes the old country music. If it is so great why does no one sing it any more? Hip Hop and Rap is the bomb. Whoooop there it is.

    April 21, 2012 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
  30. fat albert

    When u rock his world and whip out your meat, your buddy says “wow, what a nice lil’ treat.” Went for a few days without some c@ck…just got to have it there round da clock! Now my name is dizzy but they call me Chu-pa….dat’s Spanish for su*k and its supa dupa! I go under cover and dress up like a fruit….I grab his big rod and play da skin fluute! His juices be flowin and his shaft be all slick…once I polish this tool I need to find some more di@k! Next time u be hangin here in my hood, drop me a line and I’ll its all understood. I will bend you over a chair and bust out a cuff, I will pound your chute cuz u be likin it rough! Time to go now and get back to biz…cuz u all know dat I be Fruity Diz!!

    April 21, 2012 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
  31. Ann

    I agree with the comments about Lady GaGa and The Biebs. They have real talent. They are real musicians. Biebs can sing, at the guitar, and rules as a drummer. No one has as much pure talent as him. Whoever heard of this hillbilly Levon ?

    April 21, 2012 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Hale

      In 20 years, when these no talent hacks are long forgotten about, people will still be listening to Levon Helm. Go back to watching nickelodeon and thinking you know what you're talking about.

      April 21, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • AZSetts

      Oh how sad, people like Ann form the proverbial "jury of our peers" and also vote! Ann, although you like to think it, the world didn't start when you were born. As for The Biebs, he's OK for some but I like my music a little less bland.

      April 21, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • andy3

      I'm Canadian and would like to apologize for Bieber.

      April 21, 2012 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
  32. Chantal

    I just don't see why all the post about some country music singer. Don't you still have that Garth Brooks to listen too?

    April 21, 2012 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
  33. James

    All the'necks are out plowing the fields right now and beatin on their wifes. That be why nobody postin.

    April 21, 2012 at 9:01 am | Report abuse |
  34. Bieber Babe

    One day all these old rednecks are going to be gone and we can listen to real music. No one likes this hick country music.

    April 21, 2012 at 8:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Hale

      You have no idea what you're talking about, this man was a greater musician than any mass produced garbage you listen to. Do they even play any instruments? No, be quiet and let the grown ups talk.

      April 21, 2012 at 9:12 am | Report abuse |
  35. Bieber Babe

    They are just old redneck hippies that sing country music. No one likes this garbage anyhow. Maybe pretend cowboys that drive trucks and chew tobacco and NRA members but that is about all. And Republicans probably like it. Yeeeeehaw.

    April 21, 2012 at 8:41 am | Report abuse |
  36. Bieber Babe

    All of these loosers are just Justin Bieber wannabes. Him and Lady Gaga have more talent than a million old dirty redneck country music singers put together.

    April 21, 2012 at 8:37 am | Report abuse |
  37. Slyp Jones

    I hate d@mned white people.

    April 21, 2012 at 8:21 am | Report abuse |
  38. JackofHearts

    Let's just say the debate is settled. If you're smart, it's Fanny. if you're not, there's a debate. thank you for 'information spreading' CNN. some sites would call such a claim 'trolling,' not 'headlining.'

    April 21, 2012 at 3:26 am | Report abuse |
  39. Jackie

    Huh. I always thought it was, "Take a load off, FATTY".

    April 21, 2012 at 2:31 am | Report abuse |
  40. JT

    Duane Allman playing on a cover by Aretha Franklin... mind blown, thank you author. I didn't know that existed.

    April 21, 2012 at 2:10 am | Report abuse |
    • AUthinker

      The weight was recorded during the same session that Duane Allman and Wilson Pickett covered Hey Jude. Check out the Muscle Shoals recording sessions. Duane was a house musician at the Muscle Shoals recording studios at the time. There are some great instrumental covers recorded by Duane and King curtis of some Hendrix's tunes as well as some from the Band and Delanie and Bonnie.

      April 21, 2012 at 9:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Laterf

      Anyone named Duane just gatta be a knob gobbler. A whyte boy.

      April 21, 2012 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
  41. DJ Johnson

    I thought this was settled back in the 70s when Levon did an interview where he said it was Fanny. He sang the thing. I think he knows what the name was.

    April 21, 2012 at 1:52 am | Report abuse |
  42. freddie mercury

    * takes a massive stinking dump into a pot of chili* anyone want any of my homemade chili? lookey it even has corn in it....bicycle bicycle..i want to ride my bicycle....* wipes butt on dish towel*

    April 21, 2012 at 1:47 am | Report abuse |
  43. Wade N Ginger N Eastman Georgia

    FANNY or ANNIE, either way it is a DAMN good song and I have loved it every since the very first time I heard it as a small boy back in the 70's!!! The BAND is one the th very first Groups I remember singing along with as a young boy growing up in middle Southern Georgia. Levon will be missed by the Millions of Fans he and the group have picked up along the roads of the World over the past MANY MANY Years..Rest in Piece my friend and TAKE A LOAD OFF LEVON!!!

    April 21, 2012 at 1:44 am | Report abuse |
  44. Penny Nickels

    I'm still trying to figure out if Jimi was saying "Excuse me while I kiss this guy" when he sang Purple Haze.

    April 21, 2012 at 1:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Kyle H. Davis

      Or Creedence Clearwater Revival.... "There's a bathroom on the right".

      My favorite was hearing a DJ say that he always thought "Sweet Hitchhiker" was an indian name... "Sweaty Jahaika"

      April 21, 2012 at 2:53 am | Report abuse |
  45. elton john

    Hello boys! i can solve this quick..The song is about a young boy taking it in his FANNY......reminds me when i was a lad and my teacher fondled me behind the blackboard..after this romantic moment i says teacha! give me a piana i feel like a sining a song...oh why dont cha put ur dong in me...put er deep im me teach lol

    April 21, 2012 at 1:23 am | Report abuse |
    • elton john

      I been in plenty of johns to hit da glory hole....I been polishin dem knobs for years! Hope my regular partner doesn't get dem aids or syphy/gonhorr lip sores!!

      April 21, 2012 at 1:29 am | Report abuse |
    • elton john

      I like big dongs and I cannot lie. Dem tiny ones make me cry. I want them nice and hard...da plump rumps be filled with lard! I taste dat salty spooo...gotta luv dat gooo so new. I just have to ride his tool...its size makes me want to drool....schlobin knobs be so cool...now I aint be da fool. Out!!

      April 21, 2012 at 1:41 am | Report abuse |
  46. Penny Nickels

    It's both Annie AND Fanny. Levon couldn't make up his mind.

    April 21, 2012 at 12:37 am | Report abuse |
  47. Jerry

    Hmm, I've always thought it was "Manny" and a reference to Richard Manuel NOT being the lead vocalist on the song........

    April 21, 2012 at 12:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Adam

      I always thought it was manny too. that was it sounds like to me. im even trying to hear it the other ways and i still hear manny

      April 21, 2012 at 1:59 am | Report abuse |
  48. auramac

    What debate? It's always been obvious to me that it's Fanny! My ears verify it, and lip-reading everyone in the Band who's sung lead or harmony on it leaves no doubts.

    April 20, 2012 at 11:12 pm | Report abuse |
  49. N. Manning

    I thought it was "drop a load on granny." Learn something new every day.

    April 20, 2012 at 11:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • JD

      'drop a load on granny' That's sick, ignorant and hysterical all at the same time.

      April 20, 2012 at 11:26 pm | Report abuse |
  50. sfeadmin

    Aren't the words: "Take a load off, Granny"?

    April 20, 2012 at 10:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      That's what i always thought the words were, man. You know what? We just lost one of the all time greats yesterday and these people are bringing up this crap. let the guy rest in peace for crying out loud!

      April 20, 2012 at 11:08 pm | Report abuse |
  51. fat albert

    I be justa wantba to sayba that you white boysba dont now nuthin abot dos werds to dat there songba. cuz weba gonna start a newba rap bandba okay ba? Da song goed sumthin like dis ba.. fanny git some funba and ride my black dong all da nite long...white gurls smell so guud compare to black hood rats who smelled like pee and old socks ah.

    April 20, 2012 at 10:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • fat albert

      Yo yo! I love to rap and dats no lie, I gave up dem dix and started chasin da pie! No more polishin and waxin dem knobs...from now on I be done with da corn cobs. Its just da box dat turns me on....every day of da month even if dey got pons! I pump da cooochie till it be so sore...my strap-on sausage be dusty no more! So that's my rhyme and u gotta be stoked, I just want da chicks and be done with the blokes!! See ya!

      April 20, 2012 at 11:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • fat albert

      When u rock his world and whip out your meat, your buddy says "wow, what a nice lil' treat." Went for a few days without some c@ck...just got to have it there round da clock! Now my name is dizzy but they call me Chu-pa....dat's Spanish for su*k and its supa dupa! I go under cover and dress up like a fruit....I grab his big rod and play da skin fluute! His juices be flowin and his shaft be all slick...once I polish this tool I need to find some more di@k! Next time u be hangin here in my hood, drop me a line and I'll its all understood. I will bend you over a chair and bust out a cuff, I will pound your chute cuz u be likin it rough! Time to go now and get back to biz...cuz u all know dat I be Fruity Diz!!

      April 21, 2012 at 12:17 am | Report abuse |
  52. Sven

    I had the joy of knowing him as a patient at a clinic I worked at. At first I had no clue who he was. He simply asked how I was doing and we chatted about our home towns and the weather. He was such a humble man and never mentioned his fame/rock star legend status at any of his follow-up visits. He just wanted to talk about normal everyday stuff and how I was doing. You and your pleasant demeanor will be missed Levon!

    April 20, 2012 at 10:18 pm | Report abuse |
  53. Mike

    At about 3:50 in the song it says plainly "to get back to Miss Fanny, you know she's the only one". I always thought it was Annie, it's Fanny. No question about it.

    April 20, 2012 at 10:11 pm | Report abuse |
  54. Nathalie

    Ricky Nelson is gonna be singing about some lame garden party.

    April 20, 2012 at 9:52 pm | Report abuse |
  55. Nathalie

    Im going to Hooterville tomorrow. Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs are going to be pickin along with Duane Allman.

    April 20, 2012 at 9:50 pm | Report abuse |
  56. Granny Clampett

    Up frm the ground come the bubbling crude. Puppy power. Texas T. Take ya shoes off. Y'all come back now. Hear ? This has been a Filmways Presentation. Pupppppy Poooower.

    April 20, 2012 at 9:43 pm | Report abuse |
  57. Granny Clampett

    Pupppppy pooooooower.

    April 20, 2012 at 9:41 pm | Report abuse |
  58. Jethro

    Theres a little hotel called the Shady Rest at the junction. whooooooo whooooooo

    April 20, 2012 at 9:37 pm | Report abuse |
  59. Jed

    Lots o girls you bet, neven mooooore when you get, to the junction. whoooooo whoooooo.

    April 20, 2012 at 9:36 pm | Report abuse |
  60. Nate

    Or maybe it was Treyvon Little the football player. All of em look alike to me.

    April 20, 2012 at 9:34 pm | Report abuse |
  61. Nate

    Who cares. I bet the killed that George Zimmerman guy. You know. The mexican wearing a hoodie with skittles.

    April 20, 2012 at 9:31 pm | Report abuse |
  62. Dave B

    Levons voice carried his joy of music in a truthful way, his genuine performances are seldom heard from newer artists this was a man who would have sang for free if he never achieved the fame he had.
    I feel privledged to have been a fan of his. I will surely miss him.

    April 20, 2012 at 9:31 pm | Report abuse |
  63. snaporaz

    You say Annie, I say Fanny; let's call the whole thing off.

    April 20, 2012 at 9:19 pm | Report abuse |
  64. *Chuck

    s'cuse me while I kiss this guy...

    April 20, 2012 at 9:17 pm | Report abuse |
  65. Dave

    Did you mean"in memory of Elisabeth Reed" that was a nice Allman Bros song. Yep.

    April 20, 2012 at 9:14 pm | Report abuse |
  66. georgevreelandhill2010

    Fanny.
    I never even thought it could be Annie.

    George Vreeland Hill

    April 20, 2012 at 9:12 pm | Report abuse |
  67. Mrdifficult

    Mediocre music from lazy musicians that sounds good to tin ears.

    April 20, 2012 at 9:12 pm | Report abuse |
  68. Dan

    If you understand diction and you listen carefully. There is clearly a slight break where he completes the word "off" and then starts the word "Fanny." If he was singing "Annie," he would break the "f" from the word "off" a little earlier and then enunciate the "A" of "Annie." That's NOT what he does. You can clearly hear two "f" sounds. It's simple. Case closed. It's "Fanny!" No doubt.

    April 20, 2012 at 9:09 pm | Report abuse |
  69. clizzy

    What's really important is where is he gonna go . Heavan or hell. What about you? Seek Jesus the prince of peace!

    April 20, 2012 at 9:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joey B

      Jesus? That guy mows my lawn and his cousin cleans my pool. Jesus is the prince of killing crab grass.

      April 20, 2012 at 9:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • words are sew easy to misunderstand & misunderestimate

      oh, peace... I always thought it was PEAS

      April 20, 2012 at 11:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • me again

      good thing spelling doesn't count towards getting into heavEn.

      April 20, 2012 at 11:56 pm | Report abuse |
  70. Jim M.

    The song is about my home town, Nazareth PA. His guitar's name is Annie, and the story details him getting his guitar fixed as a contract between him and a Martin Guitar factory worker. The musician agreed to take care of the guitar-makers dog, Jack, which cemented the deal between the two men.

    April 20, 2012 at 8:36 pm | Report abuse |
  71. Dude

    It's is Fanny. It has always been Fanny. There is no mystery here... the lyric is Fanny. Fans know this.

    /topic

    April 20, 2012 at 8:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • slewatha

      I always thought it was Fanny, never even thought of the possibility of Annie, weird.

      April 20, 2012 at 9:00 pm | Report abuse |
  72. Bob

    One of the greatest musician, song writer and performer to come along. I hope reincarnation is a reality because someone this good should never be lost to death.

    April 20, 2012 at 8:26 pm | Report abuse |
  73. HRPuckinfutz

    Just listened to the song. He clearly sings Off Fanny. Not sure why there is a debate. Anyone with an ear should be able to hear the very brief pause between Off and Fanny.

    April 20, 2012 at 8:25 pm | Report abuse |
  74. kelso

    Joe Hobbler.........I'd have a weapon at the side of my bed if you even knew who I was or where I lived. You do not respect WOMEN Your day will come....Anyone else get that?????????

    April 20, 2012 at 8:14 pm | Report abuse |
  75. SashineB

    I think it's about Fanny. Even the Aretha version sounds like Fanny. The article says Aretha sounds like she is singing about Annie, but she and her singers sound like they are saying FANNY, to me.

    April 20, 2012 at 8:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • ME2

      A lot of artists misinterpret songs when they cover them. Aretha's version is irrelevant.

      April 20, 2012 at 11:21 pm | Report abuse |
  76. neglectarino

    Always heard it as "and he"

    "He took a load of and he – took a load for free – he took a load off and he put the load right on me."

    April 20, 2012 at 8:08 pm | Report abuse |
  77. bunkerjb

    No, keep arguing! And everyone, just to back up your opinion, go back and listen to it again. Then listen to it one more time, just to be sure. Then listen to it one more time, because it's been so long since the last time you heard it. Then listen to the live version on "Rock of Ages" to see if you like it better. Then go on YouTube and find a couple of the old videos and compare them as well. Then realize it's high time you listened to ALL your old Band records. Then play them for your kids and your grandkids until you drive them crazy. Then wonder why you ever stopped listening in the first place. Dang, they were a hell of a band.

    April 20, 2012 at 8:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • bunkerjb

      And by the way, I've sung it in bands for years. When I feel like singing "Annie" I sing "Annie" and when I feel like singing "Fanny" I sing "Fanny."

      April 20, 2012 at 8:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • kaiserfilms

      bump

      April 20, 2012 at 8:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Damn Right!

      At a show in a near by town a few weeks ago, a group called the Medicine Men did "Cripple Creek". Brought back some good memories.

      April 20, 2012 at 11:51 pm | Report abuse |
  78. ShyBeast

    He and the rest of the band sing both Annie and Fannie. Try singing it..."take a load off Annie" and it sounds a lot like "take a load off Fannie"...what should be clear to everyone is that Fannie is spelled with an ie, not a y. If they were British...well,that's another song, isn't it? Peace and Love, LLR&R!

    April 20, 2012 at 7:58 pm | Report abuse |
  79. I_Have_Good_Teeth

    "I want to rock and roll all night...and part of every day!"

    April 20, 2012 at 7:54 pm | Report abuse |
  80. Mike

    I always thought it was "fatty"...

    April 20, 2012 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
  81. Kelso

    Rain................I like you........Yah Baby......You got it too...xoxo

    April 20, 2012 at 7:40 pm | Report abuse |
  82. Kelso

    Can none of you get it or are you so filled with yourselves??!!! This Man/Musician filled our lives with music...with rock and memories...bless Him and his Family at this time. Thank you Levon Rest easy on the Ocean of peace and Music xoxoxoxoxoxo

    April 20, 2012 at 7:36 pm | Report abuse |
  83. Brian Hartman

    I don't understand this debate. There were LP's back then. I remember them (although I wasn't born yet when this particular song came out). They had this nifty feature called liner notes, with the song lyrics in them. Why is there all that confusion?

    April 20, 2012 at 7:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • terri pinkston

      @ Brian. Not all LP's had liner notes with lyrics, while most did, not all.

      April 20, 2012 at 8:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian Hartman

      Thanks for the explanation, Terri. :) I was ~ 17 when I bought my last LP (which would be > 20 years ago), so I have a fuzzy memory of it, although I think the ones I bought did have lyrics, it kind of makes sense that not all of them did.

      April 20, 2012 at 9:40 pm | Report abuse |
  84. bc420

    There is no debate. If you think it's Annie, get you hearing checked. It is clearly Fanny. Says so in his book, by Robbie Robertson(main songwriter for The Band) and by everyone who sang it on stage with Levon. And for all you trolls, your parents should have had an ab0rtion.

    April 20, 2012 at 7:26 pm | Report abuse |
  85. Knucklehead AL

    Take the time to search for and play the EasyRider clip where they are riding through the painted desert north of Flagstaff and you will hear FANNY! What other evidence do you need?

    April 20, 2012 at 7:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave B

      The version of "The Weight" heard in the film Easy Rider was recorded by a band called Smith,The Bands version was not used because of recording contract disputes. So the debate rages on!

      April 20, 2012 at 9:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      This quote from the Peter Viney webpage mostly concerns my recollection, "The Band agreed to their version being used on the film soundtrack, then refused permission for it to appear on the subsequent album. Smith did a close cover version which can be heard on the Dunhill soundtrack album." except that I thought that the smith version sucked.

      April 21, 2012 at 12:15 am | Report abuse |
  86. joe hobbler

    All i gots to say is why would anyone want to be married when you can have a different honey every nite? In a marriage all the biatch does is nag and complain about nada. THEY GET DULL IN BED AND LOOK ALL HAGGARD. i keeps me a young tight woman on my rolodex....freedom to choose...yea boyeeee

    April 20, 2012 at 7:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris R

      Ah, written like someone who actually goes to bed alone every night.

      April 20, 2012 at 8:37 pm | Report abuse |
  87. Sarah

    Huh. I always thought it was "take a load off, Manny."

    April 20, 2012 at 6:55 pm | Report abuse |
  88. Mike

    Read Levon's lips
    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lF32IZggmBg&w=640&h=390]

    April 20, 2012 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
  89. Douglas

    I thought it was 'granny"...

    April 20, 2012 at 6:37 pm | Report abuse |
  90. Judith Salyer

    Its just like Jummy Henrix and "Purple Haze"....does he say "scuze me while I kiss the sky"? or "scuze me while I kiss this guy??? :D

    April 20, 2012 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sally

      Thought it was "Take a load off, Granny"

      April 20, 2012 at 6:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • dreamer96

      I've heard more then one vet says..Jimmy's Star Spangled Banner took them back to the jets, the bombs, the napalm filled skies...and they say is excuse me while I kiss my @ss goodbye...which is what some felt like over there..

      April 20, 2012 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Robert keeler

      Or does he say "scuze me while I kiss this fly" LOL

      April 20, 2012 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • mizh

      How about this from Credence: "There's a bad moon on the rise" — when I was little I thought they were singing: "There's a bathroom on the right." G'day!

      April 20, 2012 at 7:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nate

      JimI.

      April 20, 2012 at 9:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Laterf

      Wasn't that Jimmie Hendrix a gay person ?

      April 21, 2012 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
  91. Mike

    Read the rest of the words to the song. When it says What about young Anna Lee perhaps it will awaken a thought.

    April 20, 2012 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • dreamer96

      I agree about young Anna Lee...but these guys I swear would sing this song a little different in concert..play around with the chorus lines..and say mannie then at least..

      April 20, 2012 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
  92. wb

    I keep hearing..."Take a load off, Greg".

    April 20, 2012 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
  93. dreamer96

    I always thought it was Manny...mankind..like He ain't heavy he's my brother..kinda saying...That a little load off manny, (mankind) and put that load on me..That's what all the Vets and the Hippies were doing then...

    April 20, 2012 at 6:18 pm | Report abuse |
  94. danielwalldammit

    I always thought it was Mannie.

    April 20, 2012 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
  95. tomnikoly

    A group I was with in the late '60's covered the song. I sang harmony on the chorus and I always said "fanny"....I think...LOL!!!

    April 20, 2012 at 6:12 pm | Report abuse |
  96. Bill

    Take a load off, Fanny. ( Levon's autobiography.)

    April 20, 2012 at 6:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      This Wheel's on Fire: Levon Helm and the Story of the Band by Levon Helm and Stephen Davis

      April 20, 2012 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
  97. Chris

    I think its Tranny.

    April 20, 2012 at 6:05 pm | Report abuse |
  98. Rain

    What a stupid article... we lost such a great, distinctive voice to a horrible disease and all you can do is quibble about lyrics? Stupid. Shame.

    And it's Fanny...it's always been Fanny. No debate.

    April 20, 2012 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
  99. Mandogal

    I just got back from the gym where I attempt to take a load off my fanny, and read this article... so I am going with "Fannie."

    April 20, 2012 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
  100. brako

    take MY load fanny and annie

    April 20, 2012 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
  101. yourmom

    I thought it was take a load off Hannity...

    April 20, 2012 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
  102. never_wrong

    It has been Annie since the day he wrote it? this is for the chorus!

    (Chorus:)
    Take a load off Annie, take a load for free;
    Take a load off Annie, And (and) (and) you can put the load right on me.

    I picked up my bag, I went lookin' for a place to hide;
    When I saw Carmen and the Devil walkin' side by side.
    I said, "Hey, Carmen, come on, let's go downtown."
    She said, "I gotta go, but m'friend can stick around."

    April 20, 2012 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • You're_Wrong

      Yep. You're wrong. I had the pleasure of playing with him once....and it is without a doubt fanny. Straight from his mouth to my ears....on the same couch. Sorry.

      April 20, 2012 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
  103. dillo dirt is sewage

    Solutions to other jumbled song lyrics:

    Big Ol' Jeremiah, don't carry me too far away! (b/c Jeremiah is a really strong dude).

    And one-armed-Gabe will not bother you (obviously a reference to the town's crazy one-armed dude instead of Watergate).

    April 20, 2012 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
  104. Arkie

    It's Fanny. I'm from the same part of Arkansas as Levon and have the same accent. I've never had any trouble understanding his lyrics – it is definitely Fanny.

    April 20, 2012 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • PeteArk

      I'm from way northwest...heard him at the Rockwood Club when he was a kid (before the song at issue)...no doubt when I heard it..."Fanny".

      April 20, 2012 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sylvia

      I listened to Music from Big Pink throughout the "70's and still listen to it. It's "Fanny." I'm sure Levon would be
      delighted to know we all care enough about him to weigh in. Rest in peace, Levon; you'll never be forgotten!

      April 20, 2012 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
  105. john

    Great story. I always thought it was Lenny.

    April 20, 2012 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
  106. karma

    Who cares? The Band was the most overrated rock group of all time.

    April 20, 2012 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • CraigW

      Really? Maybe you want to listen to the Band's music before you make such an absurd comment. Wasn't it Mark Twain who said "It's better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and prove it so"?

      April 20, 2012 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • phred

      ...not in a world that containd U2.

      April 20, 2012 at 7:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • abudum

      The popularity of the Band was due to their live performances, not because of their record sales or great songs. Although they had a lot of great songs too. Then again, one hit was more than you have or will ever see.

      April 20, 2012 at 9:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Shadowdancer

      karma...kick yourself in the ass. The Band rocked.

      April 20, 2012 at 10:07 pm | Report abuse |
  107. Burbanked

    Doesn't matter which- Fanny or Annie, just one of the best pop songs of the last century. Truly timeless.

    April 20, 2012 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  108. Stephen Goodson

    ...To ponder. To Wonder why. To step back a few feet – the reason why we call it art...

    April 20, 2012 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
  109. Kevin

    If you continue listening past the chorus, you hear that the solution is in the final verse: " ... I do believe it's time / to get back to miss Fannie. / You know she's the only one ... "
    Excellent research skills, CNN.

    April 20, 2012 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
  110. FreezeSukka

    That's why I pretty much live at http://www.songmeanings.net Not only does it have the lyrics to all your favorite songs, but it gives you a place to debate the lyrics' meanings as well. Enjoy!

    April 20, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
  111. Heffi

    It's Fanny

    April 20, 2012 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
  112. talbet

    It's Benny.

    April 20, 2012 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
  113. Texan1

    I never knew this was an issue. I've always thought it was "Annie"....Now I'll have to go listen to the song again.

    April 20, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • JESSIE

      I've heard it sung with both names; but "Fanny" always sound better to me. Maybe the reason the Band never officially settled the dispute was that they thought it was fun to keep everyone guessing and liked having a little bit of mystery around that song. Keeps it alive.

      Some of my faves are:

      1. "Forever in Blue Jeans" ... "Reverend Blue Jeans"
      2. "There's a Bad Moon on the Rise" ... "There's a Bathroom on the Right"
      3. "Our Father Who Art in Heaven, Hallowed by the Name" ... "Our Father Who Art in Heaven, Harold is Your Name"

      April 20, 2012 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
  114. Stan

    The song is about how at times there can be too many requests or demands made of ourselves. We need someone to step in and stop it. Nazareth was a real town in some state and the writer was relating a true story where too many requests were made of him from people on his visit to Nazareth. They wanted him to stop by multiple stores and get them this and that. Trying to please people may seem like a good thing, but it can turn into something evil and wrong when you are staggering under the weight.

    April 20, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mandogalc

      Stan, I love your explanation of the song–I think you are right on–and the meaning of the songs matters more than the name used in the song, but still, do you think it is "Annie" or "Fannie?"

      April 20, 2012 at 6:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • tomnikoly

      I don't know if this is relevant but Martin guitars are made in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. Or at least that's the Martin world HQ these days.

      April 20, 2012 at 6:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jalisa

      You doing gay.

      April 21, 2012 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
  115. Terri

    Really? Helm died 24 hours ago and the story has already devolved to this kind of stupidity? Do you have 10-year-olds writing your copy?

    April 20, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • CrazyChester

      It took CNN 24 hours to find out that he had passed. Now they're trying to play catch up ;)

      April 20, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
  116. Kacie

    I always thought it was "granny".

    April 20, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
  117. Larry

    It is quite obvious that there are several characters in this song, including Fanny and Anna Lee. And Chester. And the Devil.

    April 20, 2012 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
  118. Jimmy the geek

    or could it be Granny?

    April 20, 2012 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
  119. passumpta

    Fannie.

    April 20, 2012 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
  120. Dan

    Actually the song says......Put a load on Fanny. I'm pretty sure that is what it says. I just got done listening to it.

    April 20, 2012 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • MikeKNR

      How in HELL do you get 'PUT' out of "TAKE"???....Jesus Christ, it's 'Take a load off Annie...' NOT Fannie...the entire freakin' BAND has said 'ANNIE" a 1000 times, get a clue and let drop this stupid non-controversy...

      April 20, 2012 at 7:21 pm | Report abuse |
  121. JB!

    won't ya stay and keep Anna Lee company, nuff said

    April 20, 2012 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
  122. LS

    For years my friend and I thought that he said "A trucker's dream if I ever did see one" in the chorus of "Up On Cripple Creek." Ha-turns out he was saying "drunkard."

    April 20, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
  123. My2Sense4U

    It's 'Fanny'. Always was, always will be. This article is the first I ever heard about 'Annie'.

    April 20, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
  124. Farty McCloud

    It is most definitely Fanny. Robbie wrote the sound about me taking a load off my "fanny" with a particularly pungent gas bomb.

    April 20, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
  125. adrifter

    I always thought it was 'Fanny'. I love the song 'The Weight', but I have to admit I haven't the slightest idea what it's about.

    April 20, 2012 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • ME2

      That's the mark of a truly great rock song. You can listen to it over & over cause you never quite get it. It's open to interpretation. "Madman Across The Water" "All Along The Watchtower" to name a couple others.

      April 21, 2012 at 12:10 am | Report abuse |
  126. Jota

    Fanny. Always was, always will be Fanny.

    April 20, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
  127. Barry

    The answer is "Fanny". The only place its identifiable is in the last verse, "Catch a Cannon Ball to take me down the line. My Bag is sinking low and I do believe there's time. To get back to Miss FANNY" Case closed.

    April 20, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anna

      You know, she's the only one who sent me here with her regards for everyone.

      April 20, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
  128. Pitz

    It's Fanny, and Robbie Robertson, who wrote the song, says in an interview about the decision to record the song on Music From Big Pink, "Well, let's give that `Take a load off Fanny' song a shot." I have gotten into arguments with my boyfriend for years over this. He swears it's Vannie. I've finally proven him wrong. It is cited on The Band's unofficial site as Kevin Ransom interview, Guitar Player, May 1995. Footnote #33.

    http://theband.hiof.no/articles/the_weight_viney.html

    April 20, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  129. Noodles

    The great Duane Allman. I agree more than ten thousand percent. Allman Bros live at Fillmore East is one of the single greatest albums of all time. Sweet Melissa and Whipping Post usually cause me to stop whatever I'm doing to just listen. WOW.

    April 20, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • David B.

      I saw the Allman Brothers live at the July 1970 Atlanta Pop Festival (actually in Macon, GA). Also, Jimi Hendrix was there, Mott the Hoople, and many more. Out of 10, an 11!

      April 20, 2012 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      nope. Hendrix never performed in Georgia. Sorry. He did Perform at Monterey Pops. Wasn't any such thing as an Atlanta or Georgia pops festival.

      April 20, 2012 at 9:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      enjoyable story though. Thanks. There was Champagne Jam in the 70s with ARS. It was awesome. Hendrix was long gone then.

      April 20, 2012 at 9:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nate

      Atlanta Rhythm Section was great at Champagne Jam. It was kind of a southern fried rock show. No early metal. No big names . JimI Hendrix had already been gone 7 or 8 years.

      April 20, 2012 at 9:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hy man

      Dave B is correct. For gid sakes the guy was there. Check the link, and Hendrix did play there...

      http://www.thestripproject.com/1970_Atlanta_Pop_Festival.html

      April 20, 2012 at 11:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Trish

      Who cares. They are just Justin Beiber wannabes

      April 21, 2012 at 8:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Laterf

      David B is right. You are all gays knob gobblers.

      April 21, 2012 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
  130. ARWEN

    Now it's clear as mud to me! NOT. I have always wondered the same thing.

    April 20, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |

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