On March 4th 1986, the Band's lead singer, pianist, and drummer Richard Manuel died in a motel room in Winter Park, Florida, while touring with the reunited Band. His emotional, soulful voice and his beautiful songwriting was essential to the success of the original group.
“I always felt very comfortable with Richard in The Band. I knew nobody else had a better singer. Richard’s policy was to hold up his glass and say, ‘spend it all!’ – which is a pretty good policy when you think about it.” – Levon Helm, 1997
"He brought a lot of powers and strengths to the group. He brought in gospel music from his church upbringing. Plus, he loved to play and just come up with new things. It was like having a force of nature in the band."
"Richard not only had the voice, he had this great rhythmic feel..."
"I was madly in love with Richard... At the time,  we had the same troubles. I felt insecure and he was clearly insecure, and yet he was so incredibly gifted....For me he [Richard] was the true light of the Band. The other guys were fantastic talents, of course, but there was something of the holy madman about Richard. He was raw. When he sang in that high falsetto the hair on my neck would stand on end. Not many people can do that."
"Richard Manuel's is the first voice you hear on the first Band album Music from Big Pink. After a Robbie Robertson guitar intro that sounds as if it's being fed through Garth Hudson's Lowrey organ at its most distorted, his aching baritone launches into the first reproachful line of `Tears of Rage`. As it arches over `arms`, you can't help thinking of Ray Charles, the singer who more than any other shaped this unlikely white soul voice from Stratford, Ontario. And by the end of the first chorus you realize why, in an almost unspoken way, Manuel's fellow Band vocalists Levon Helm and Rick Danko always looked upon him as the group's `lead` singer."