Got The Band to keep me company tonight through a long haul of boring paperwork.
"The Weight" takes the folk music motif of a traveller, who arrives in Nazareth in the Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania. Once there, he encounters various residents of the town, the song being a story of these encounters.
The residents include a man who cannot direct the traveller to a hotel, Carmen and the Devil walking side by side, "Crazy Chester," who offers a bed in exchange for the traveller taking his dog, and Luke who has gone out to wait for the apocalypse, leaving his young bride neglected.
In Levon Helm's autobiography "This Wheel's on Fire," Helm explains that the people mentioned in the song were based on real people the Band knew. The "Miss Anna Lee" mentioned in the lyric is Helm's longtime friend Anna Lee Amsden.
According to Robbie, "The Weight" was somewhat inspired by the films of Luis Buñuel, about which Robbie once said:
"He did so many films on the impossibility of sainthood, people trying to do good in Viridiana and Nazarín, and it's impossible to do good. In "The Weight" it's the same thing. Someone says, "Listen, will you do me this favor? When you get there will you say 'hello' to somebody or will you pick up one of these for me?" "Oh, you're going to Nazareth, do me a favor when you're there." So the guy goes and one thing leads to another and it's like, "Holy shit, what has this turned into? I've only come here to say 'hello' for somebody and I've got myself in this incredible predicament." It was very Buñuelish of me at the time. "