Many have remarked on similarities between the music and constitution of Procol Harum and of The Band: perhaps most publicly Paul Williams in the Shine on Brightly liner note.
The musical links are seemingly corroborated by another link, as Kenny White reports that the Band's Levon Helm was 'a great hero' of Barrie Wilson: 'They were good friends. I know Procol had met The Band, and Barrie and Levon got on well. In about 1968 ... a whole bunch of us went to hear The Band play the Albert Hall'. And in Rock (1971) Procol certainly give the impression that they enjoy The Band's music [see here]
This excerpt from a 1969 Rolling Stone interview, however, shows how carefully The Band's Robbie Robertson had considered the relationship.
RS: What do you think of Procul [sic] Harum? They have the same instrumentation as you, and on a few songs there is a similarity between both groups.
RR: Right, right, it's true. The only thing that I really know about them is that Whiter Shade Of Pale. Their whole thing to me sounds like Percy Sledge. When A Man Loves A Woman, for ever and ever and ever. I've heard vaguely a few records by them, and they're still singing that same song. I don't know why they want to do that. Whatever similarity, I must say we're not conscious of it. We've had organ and piano for ten years. I don't know how long they've had it. We got ours from gospel music. That doesn't have much to do [sic] with Procul [sic] Harum.
Quoted in The Rolling Stone Interviews, Volume 1, published 1971
In fact, however, Gary Brooker has been a professed admirer of gospel music since a teenage visit to London's Aldwych theatre, where he saw the British tour of The Black Nativity by Langston Hughes ('the poet laureate of Harlem' as he was known). This 1961 'Christmas song-play' about Jesus and the manger is part gospel choir recital, part dance theatre piece, and part revival meeting. 'It blew me away,' Gary told me, 'that huge choir, organ, tambourines ...'
The gospel inflections in Procol Harum music may not have impinged on Robbie Robertson because, like most PH influences, they are rather subtly assimilated. Mr Robertson would have been well-advised to listen without prejudice!
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