The Band Guitarist Robbie Robertson Has Died

The legendary Rock And Roll Hall Of Famer was 80.

By Team JamBase Aug 9, 2023 1:26 pm PDT

The Band guitarist and songwriter Robbie Robertson has died at age 80. According to a statement from Robbie Robertson’s family:

“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. 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 that donations be made to the Six Nations of the Grand River to support a new Woodland Cultural Centre.

Multiple outlets cited Robertson’s management in confirming his death today (August 9) in Los Angeles, purportedly surrounded by family and following a long illness.

The Band’s Garth Hudson is the last surviving original member of the group that was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. Levon Helm, Rick Danko and Richard Manuel, the other co-founding members of The Band, have all passed away.

Though later the source of a dispute with Helm and others, Robertson’s song writing credits include many of The Band’s favorites “The Weight,” “Up on Cripple Creek,” “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” and dozens of others.

Robbie Robertson was born Jaime Royal Robertson on July 5, 1943 in Toronto. Of Native American descent, Robertson’s musical journey began when he would travel with his mother to Six Nations Reserve where he began learning guitar.

At 14, Robertson worked at carnivals near Toronto, an experience which inspired The Band song “Life Is A Carnival” as well as the 1980 film Carny, which he produced and starred in. Robertson would subsequently team up with Canadian musician Ronnie Hawkins as a member of Ronnie Hawkins and The Hawks where he learned the ropes of playing in a rock ‘n’ roll band. It was also in the Hawks that Robertson met his future The Band bandmates Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel and finally Levon Helm.

The gig with The Hawks led to an even bigger opportunity backing superstar Bob Dylan on his notorious 1966 world tour. The trek followed Dylan’s controversial electric phase which drew the ire of his more traditional folk fans leading them to boo when the band played electric guitar, although the music was otherwise exemplary.

Robertson would go on to form The Band in 1967 in Woodstock, New York with Danko, Helm, Hudson and Manuel. The group continued their relationship with Dylan and recorded The legendary Basement Tapes with the singer-songwriter, which wouldn’t be released until 1975.

The Band released their debut album, the landmark Music From Big Pink (named after the group’s house in Woodstock) in 1968. The Band would go on to release five more albums with Robertson, becoming one of the most influential rock groups of all time.

Robertson was the driving songwriting force behind the group’s most well-known songs including “The Weight,” “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” “Up on Cripple Creek,” “Ophelia” and more. Robertson also helped conceive the group’s farewell production, iconic concert film The Last Waltz, captured on Thanksgiving 1976, and directed by Martin Scorsese.

The Band would eventually reform without Robertson. Robertson’s solo career included working on films and soundtrack production, teaming up with Scorsese on several projects. Robertson’s self-titled solo album was released in 1987. His autobiography, Testimony, was published in November 2016.

His sixth and final solo album, Sinematic was released in 2019. The record contained songs that appeared on Scorsese’s 2019 film, The Irishman.

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