Rick Danko, bassist and a vocalist for the legendary group The Band, died at his home in Woodstock, New York on Friday morning, the day after Danko celebrated his 56th birthday.
It’s not immediately known what brought about Danko’s sudden death, although Woodstock’s Medical Examiner, Dr. Walter Dobushak, told MTV News that Danko appeared to have died of natural causes and that there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding the case.
A final determination will be made after toxicology reports are completed, a process expected to take a few weeks.
Danko was best known for his work in The Band, a group which originally featured guitarist Robbie Robertson, pianist/vocalist Richard Manuel, drummer/vocalist Levon Helm, and organist Garth Hudson.
Members of The Band got their start by backing singer Ronnie Hawkins in the early ’60s, and Hawkins subsequently dubbed the group “The Hawks.” After splitting from Hawkins in 1963, the band struck out on its own and quickly
came to the attention of Bob Dylan, who hired The Hawks to serve as his band in 1965.
Minus Helm, The Hawks backed up Dylan throughout his controversial tour in 1965-66, when Dylan’s raucous, electric sets divided audiences who thought he had betrayed folk music by embracing rock and roll. The Hawks can be heard backing Dylan on the “Bootleg Series Vol. 4: Live 1966 – The ’Royal Albert Hall’ Concert,” which documents the tumultuous time.
With Helm back in tow, The Hawks evolved into The Band in 1966, and the group moved to a house in West Saugherties, New York, where it recorded much of its 1968 debut, “Music From Big Pink,” featuring one of The Band’s signature tunes, “The Weight.” Other classic songs from The Band include “Up On Cripple Creek,” “The Shape I’m In,” and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.”
The Band decided to retire after a Thanksgiving Day concert in 1976 and was joined at the show by Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Ringo Starr, Joni Mitchell, Van
Morrison, Muddy Waters, and Ron Wood. Director Martin Scorsese filmed the concert, and the resulting movie and triple album, “The Last Waltz,” were issued in 1978.
The Band reformed in 1983 without Robertson, although tragedy struck when Manuel hanged himself in a hotel room in Winter Park, Florida in 1986. The Band continued on, releasing the “Jericho” LP in 1993, and was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1994.
The Band issued its most recent album, “Jubilation,” in 1998.