The Band’s Robbie Robertson Discusses Levon Helm’s Songwriting Contributions In New Interview

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Robbie Robertson claims he gave his fellow co-founding member of The Band, Levon Helm publishing and songwriting credits even though, “Levon didn’t write songs.” The controversial topic came up in a new interview published by Salon, which came in promotion of the recently released The Band documentary Once Were Brothers.

Helm spoke a number of times about how disappointed he was with the way songwriting credits and publishing was distributed among members of The Band in the decades leading up to his death in 2012. Levon tackled the subject in his autobiography This Wheel’s On Fire. “When [1969’s The Band LP came out, I discovered that I was credited for writing half of ‘Jemima Surrender’ and that was it,” Helm wrote. “Richard [Manuel] was a co-writer on three songs. Rick [Danko] and Garth [Hudson] went uncredited. Robbie Robertson was credited on all twelve songs. Somebody had pencil whipped us. It was an old tactic: divide and conquer.”

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Robbie was asked about the situation by Salon’s Gary M. Kramer and here’s his response:

Here’s something that I’ve not said before. To this day, on The Band’s songs, I share the publishing and songwriting credit with Levon. The other guys said they wanted to sell their part of the publishing. When we started out, everyone was supposed to write songs. [When they didn’t] I thought they were being lazy. But some people can write songs, and some can’t. Levon didn’t write songs. I gave him credit on some songs because he was around. Garth was a great musician, but he couldn’t write. Ringo Starr doesn’t write songs. Charlie Watts doesn’t write songs, and they don’t share publishing credit with the other guys in their groups. After 16 years together, Levon never once mentioned songwriting. When it came up, I was generous about it. I did stuff I didn’t have to do, and I did it to be a good friend. It was 10 or 15 years after that when Levon was struggling financially, and he’s blamed someone else for what happened with him. This was another case of that.

Robertson also discusses his relationship with filmmaker Martin Scorsese, his acting career, the changes in the music industry and a number of other topics besides the documentary. Head here to read the entire article. Once Were Brothers is available to rent and purchase via Amazon.com.

[Hat Tip – Jambands.com]

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