Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Robbie Robertson dead at 80

The Band guitarist Robbie Robertson died in Los Angeles, CA on August 9 at the age of 80.

CBC News reports Robertson passed away Wednesday morning after a long illness, according to his longtime manager Jared Levine.

"Robbie was surrounded by his family at the time of his death, including his wife, Janet, his ex-wife, Dominique, her partner Nicholas, and his children Alexandra, Sebastian, Delphine, and Delphine's partner Kenny," said Levine in a statement. “In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made to the Six Nations of the Grand River to support the building of their new cultural center.”

One of the first Indigenous rock stars, Robertson was born in Toronto, ON and began playing in a series of groups before catching the attention of Ronnie Hawkins, who eventually brought the multi-talented teenage musician into his backing band, The Hawks, alongside drummer Levon Helm; a few short years later, the lineup included bassist Rick Danko from Simcoe, ON, pianist Richard Manuel from Stratford, ON and the classically-trained organist Garth Hudson from London, ON.

In 1964, the members of The Hawks branched out on their own, eventually as Levon And The Hawks, and their growing reputation led to a stint as Bob Dylan’s backing band as the folk musician began a period of performing electric sets, which famously caused controversy amongst the hardcore folk community.

The Hawks began working with Dylan on new music at a rented house in upstate New York in 1967, which also inspired ideas for their own material, and it was these sessions which they would record the following year that led to the outfit’s first studio album, 1968’s “Music From Big Pink”, under their new name The Band. Notably, the set’s lead single, “The Weight”, would gain traction and profile for the group when it was featured in the Easy Rider film.

The follow-up self-titled set arrived the following year, delivering more favorites like “Up On Cripple Creek”, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”, and “Rag Mama Rag”, earning The Band their first US Top 20 album.

More classic followed on 1970’s “Stage Fright” and 1971’s “Cahoots”, while The Band would record with Dylan and perform a joint tour in support of Dylan’s 1974 album, “Planet Waves.”

As The Band grew weary of touring, they conceptualized and performed a farewell concert billed as The Last Waltz, which saw them joined by a huge cast of special guests at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, CA; it was filmed and directed by Martin Scorcese for theatrical release.

Robertson branched out on his own with his self-titled debut in 1978, which featured the instant classics “Showdown At Big Sky” and “Somewhere Down the Crazy River”, and earned him accolades in Canada when it won the Juno Award for "Album of the Year", while producers Daniel Lanois and Robertson won the "Producer of the Year" Juno award for the project.

Four more solo sets would follow as Robertson continued to share his musical range, and he celebrated his Mohawk heritage by producing “Music for The Native Americans”, a companion to the television documentary film The Native Americans.

The Band was inducted into Canada’s Juno Awards Hall of Fame in 1989 and the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1994, while Robertson entered the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2011 and Canada's Walk of Fame in 2014 before receiving a lifetime achievement award at the Native American Music Awards in 2017.

Add some music from The Band to your collection here and pickup some Robbie Robertson music here.

See also:

The Band stream live videos to mark Rock Of Ages 50th anniversary
The Band stream expanded 50th anniversary edition of Cahoots
The Band detail expanded 50th anniversary editions of Cahoots
The Band share unreleased Royal Albert Hall performance of The Weight
Search The Band at hennemusic