Guitarist Robbie Robertson of the Band had a melody in his head, but was stymied for words, when he sat down in 1968 with a yellow legal pad determined to find the lyrics.
He liked the opening line, “pulled into” somewhere, but got stuck for the rest of the line.
Glancing at his Martin D-28, Robertson noticed the guitar’s back center-brace stamp was branded with “C.F. Martin & Co, Nazareth, PA.”
The lyrics began to flow easily: “I pulled into Nazareth, I was feeling ’bout half past dead . . . .”
The line fit perfectly with a lyric that soon became peppered with religious imagery.
“He told me that the rest of the song wrote itself in about five minutes,” Martin historian Dick Boak recalls.
“The Weight,” released in 1968 on the Band’s debut album, Music from Big Pink (Capitol), opens with a distinctive acoustic guitar riff played on that same D-28.
The recording helped spark the then-nascent Americana-music movement and has been named by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.