Musician and Composer Robbie Robertson, Lead Guitarist of The Band, Dies at 80
Musician and Composer Robbie Robertson, Lead Guitarist of The Band, Dies at 80

Robbie Robertson: Singer, songwriter, and guitarist Robbie Robertson, best known as a member of the band, died at the age of 80 in Los Angeles on Sunday. According to a statement issued by his management, he was suffering from a prolonged illness.

Robertson’s manager of 34 years, Jared Levine, wrote: “Robbie Robertson 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. He is also survived by his grandchildren Angelica, Donovan, Dominic, Gabriel, and Seraphina.” instead of flowers, the family asked that donations be made to the Six Nations of the Grand River to “support a new Woodland Cultural Center”.

Tributes included Martin Scorsese, who directed the 1978 documentary The Last Waltz about the band and remembered Robertson as “one of my closest friends, a constant in my life and my work”.

“I could always go to him as a confidante. A collaborator. An advisor. I tried to be the same for him,” Scorsese wrote. “Long before we ever met, his music played a central role in my life – me and millions and millions of other people all over this world. The Band’s music, and Robbie Robertson’s later solo music, seemed to come from the deepest place at the heart of this continent, its traditions and tragedies and joys. He was a giant and his effect on the art form was profound and lasting. There’s never enough time with anyone you love. And I loved Robbie.”

Neil Diamond tweeted that the “music world lost a great one with the passing of Robbie Robertson”, while Stephen Stills also remember him as “always kind and generous”.

E Street Band musician Stevie van Zandt recalled him as “a good friend and a genius” and “an underrated brilliant guitar player adding greatly to Bob Dylan’s best tour and best album”.

On July 5, 1943, was born in Toronto, Robertson learned music from his mother’s family, who was Mohawk and lived in the Six Nations of the Grand River Reserve. As a teenager, he joined Ronnie Hawkins and his band the Hawks on the bar circuit in Toronto.

In 1968, renamed the group from Big Pink to “The Band” and followed up with such hits as The Weight, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, Up on Cripple Creek and It Makes No Difference.

Big Pink’s music, as well as the subsequent albums The Band (1969) and Stage Fright (1970), combined barroom rock with the American new folk revival, and were critically and commercially successful. The band’s music influenced a generation of American-born musicians, as well as contemporaries such as Eric Clapton and George Harrison.

In 1991, Robertson continued to work on side projects with retired band members as well as as a solo artist in the last decades. He released his self-titled debut and his second record, Storyville, in 1986. Robertson released his final solo album, Cinematic, in 2019 and has contributed to records by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Ringo Starr, Neil Diamond, and others.

Robertson produced several of Scorsese’s films, including Raging Bull, Casino, and The Wolf Off. The score for Scorsese’s upcoming film Killers of the Flower Moon, due for release later this year, was also done by Robbie Robertson.

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