Robbie Roberston of The Band Dead at 80 - Noise11.com
Robbie Robertson

Robbie Robertson

Robbie Roberston of The Band Dead at 80

by Paul Cashmere on August 10, 2023

in News

Robbie Robertson, the co-founder, songwriter and lead guitarist for the legendary band The Band, has died at age 80.

Robbie died in Los Angeles after suffering a long illness.

In a statement the Robertson family said, “Robbie was surrounded by his family at the time of his death, including his wife Janet, his ex-wife, Dominque, her partner Nicholas, and his children Alexandra, Sebastian, Delphine and Delphine’s partner Kenny. He is also survived by his grandchildren Angelica, Donovan, Dominic, Gabriel, and Seraphina. Robertson recently completed his fourteenth film music project with frequent collaborator Martin Scorsese, Killers of the Flower Moon. In lieu of flowers, the family has asked for donations to be made to the Six Nations of the Grand River and a new Woodland Cultural Centre.”

Robertson wrote the iconic songs ‘Up On Cripple Creek’, ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down’ and ‘The Weight’.

In 1978, Martin Scorsese documented The Band from the farewell show ‘The Last Waltz’ which featured performances from Van Morrison, Neil Young, Neil Diamond, Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan.

Robbie was born Jaime Royal Robertson in Toronto, Canada on 5 July, 1943. His first break came when Ronnie Hawkins hired him as a member of The Hawks and then recorded two of his songs ‘Hey Baba Lou’ and ‘Someone Like You’ for his 1969 album ‘My Dynamo’. Robbie was soon the bass player for The Hawks.

The Hawks already featured drummer and singer Levon Helm and then Robertson. The Hawks line-up evolved and by 1961 featured Robertson, Helm, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson. That line-up became The Band.

In 1965 Bob Dylan wanted Robertson in his band. Robbie brought Helm along with him. Dylan and The Hawks for the electric Dylan band that horrified Bob’s folk fans in the mid 60s. Dylan took Robbie into the studio and together they worked on what became Bob’s seventh album ‘Blonde on Blonde’.

In 1967 invited The Hawks to his place in Woodstock, New York. They rented a house which was dubbed ‘Big Pink’. The recordings with Dylan became widely bootlegged and were eventually released as ‘The Basement Tapes’ in 1975. In 2014, Dylan released an expanded boxed set of the sessions ‘The Bootleg Series Vol. 11: The Basement Tapes Complete’. The Band’s recordings minus Dylan were released as the album ‘Music From Big Pink’ in 1968. That album featured ‘The Weight’.

In 1976, Robertson made a decision that The Band would stop touring. It caused the break-up of the group but they went out with one final concert, called ‘The Last Waltz’. The Band was booked to perform at Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco on 25 November, 1976. Robbie asked film director Martin Scorsese to film the event. The Band would perform with famous friends including included Ronnie Hawkins, Muddy Waters, Paul Butterfield, Dr. John, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, Neil Diamond, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and Emmylou Harris.

Robertson had produced an album for Jesse Winchester in 1970 and played on Ringo’s ‘Ringo’ (1973) and ‘Goodnight Vienna’ (1974). He is heard on Joni Mitchell’s ‘Court and Spark’ and played guitar on ‘Mockingbird’ for James Taylor and Carly Simon. He was now one of the most sought after session musicians, working with Eric Clapton on ‘No Reason To Cry’ and producing Neil Diamond’s ‘Beautiful Noise’.

The collaborations with Scorsese continued. Robbie scored Martin’s 1980 movies ‘Carney’ and ‘Raging Bull’ then later ‘The King of Comedy’ and ‘The Color of Money’. For ‘The Color of Money’, Robbie co-wrote the hit song for Eric Clapton ‘Its In The Way That You Use It’.

With his history it was remarkable that Robbie Robertson didn’t release a solo album until 1986. ‘Robbie Robertson’ was produced by Daniel Lanois and featured appearances from all members of U2, Peter Gabriel and his former Band mates Rick Danko and Garth Hudson.

Robbie Robertson was inducted into the Canadian Juno Hall of Hall in 1989. In 1994, The Band were inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Robbie was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2003. In 2005, he received a doctorate from York University and in 2006 the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award. In 2008 Robbie was given a Lifetime Grammy Achievement Award. In 2011, he was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame and in 2011 made Officer of the Order of Canada.

Robbie is also on Canada’s Walk of Fame, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Native American Music Awards in 2017 and was given the keys to the city of Toronto in 2019.

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