Thursday, March 3, 2011

For a Song: Acadian Driftwood

The Band: Acadian Driftwood


A song may contain multiple historical inaccuracies, and still be true. Acadian Driftwood is a perfect example. Robbie Robertson wrote the song about the deportations of Acadians from what is now eastern Canada in 1755. Robertson got many of the historical details wrong, but it doesn’t matter. The theme of the song is one that still speaks to us today. I saw something in today’s paper about refugees fleeing the upheaval in the Arab nations that are having their revolutions. Even the peaceful transitions displace people who may never have a place to call home again. This is the truth that Robertson captures so beautifully in Acadian Driftwood.

There is a wonderful, detailed discussion of the song here. Peter Viney not only details the historical inaccuracies, but also gives further reasons why the song resonates. I first heard Acadian Driftwood when it was released in 1975. It stuck in my ear immediately, and has been with me ever since. But, listening to it again after all these years, I can hear that The Band were rock musicians trying for a folk sound, and I can hear some of the production ideas of the 70s in the mix. I think Richard Shindell’s cover is what the song might have sounded like if The Band were better versed in French-Canadian folk, and if the album hadn’t been produced for a major label. So here is Shindell’s version for comparison:

Richard Shindell: Acadian Driftwood



Curt Shannon said...

Great song and nice cover. Thanks for posting.

Steve MC said...

A favorite from The Band. Never knew about the true history of it, only knew it sounded like it spoke from a place of experience.

Now off to read more about it.