1. Robbie Robertson: The Man and His Music
Robbie Robertson is one of the most influential and respected figures in the history of rock and roll. As the guitarist and main songwriter for The Band, he was responsible for some of the most iconic and timeless songs of the 20th century. Even after The Band’s dissolution, Robertson has continued to be a highly sought-after producer and collaborator, working with some of the biggest names in the business.
Robertson was born in Toronto, Canada, in 1943. His mother was a Mohawk from the Six Nations Reserve, and his father was a Jewish Canadian. Robertson’s upbringing was split between the two cultures, and he has said that this had a profound effect on his music. He began playing guitar at a young age and was soon playing in local clubs. In 1960, he joined Ronnie Hawkins’s band, The Hawks, which also featured future members of The Band: Levon Helm, Rick Danko, and Garth Hudson.
The Hawks toured extensively throughout the 1960s, backing up such legends as Bob Dylan, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Van Morrison. In 1968, they released their debut album, Music from Big Pink, which featured Robertson’s now-classic song, “The Weight.” The album was a critical and commercial success and cemented The Band’s reputation as one of the greatest rock bands of all time.
The Band continued to release groundbreaking albums throughout the 1970s, including The Band, Stage Fright, and Cahoots. They also toured extensively, including a legendary set at the Woodstock Music & Arts Festival in 1969. In 1976, they released their final album, The Last Waltz, which was a live document of their farewell concert. The concert featured an all-star lineup of guests, including Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Emmylou Harris, and Eric Clapton.
After The Band’s dissolution, Robertson continued to work as a producer and collaborator. He has worked with such artists as Peter Gabriel, U2, Neil Young, and Bob Dylan. He was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of The Band in 1994. In 2011, he released his first solo album in 20 years, How to Become Clairvoy
2. Robertson’s Early Life and Career
Robbie Robertson was born in Toronto, Canada, in 1943. His mother, Rosemarie Dolly Myriam Robertson (née Nadler), was a Mohawk singer of French Canadian and Native American descent. His father, James “Jimmy” Robertson, was a Jewish professional gambler. As a child, Robertson was raised by his maternal grandmother in the Six Nations Reserve in Ontario. Robertson’s mother died when he was a child, and his father would often leave him and his sister for extended periods of time. As a result, Robertson developed a close relationship with his grandmother.
Robertson began playing guitar when he was six years old. He was influenced by the music of Hank Williams, Muddy Waters, and Howlin’ Wolf. He and his friends would often sneak into clubs to see these artists perform. When he was thirteen, Robertson began playing in a band called The Hawks. The Hawks would eventually become The Band, one of the most influential rock groups of the 1960s and 1970s.
Robertson was an accomplished songwriter, and his songs were often inspired by his own life experiences. “The Weight” is one of his most famous songs, and it was inspired by his time spent living on the Six Nations Reserve. “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” is another of Robertson’s well-known songs, and it tells the story of the American Civil War from the perspective of a Confederate soldier.
Throughout his career, Robertson has been nominated for several Grammy Awards and has won several Juno Awards. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994 and the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1997.
3. The Band and Their Legacy
The Band was a Canadian-American rock group formed in Toronto, Ontario, in 1967. The Band’s original lineup consisted of Robbie Robertson (guitar, piano, drums, songwriter), Rick Danko (bass guitar, double bass, fiddle, vocals), Richard Manuel (piano, drums, vocals), Garth Hudson (keyboards, saxophones, trumpet), and Levon Helm (drums, mandolin, guitar, vocals). The Band is notable for having helped shape the sound of Americana and for being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.
The Band’s first album, Music from Big Pink (1968), was a critical and commercial success. The Band’s next two albums, The Band (1969) and Stage Fright (1970) were also successful. However, by 1971, the group was struggling with creative differences, drug abuse, and a lack of direction. The Band’s final album, Northern Lights – Southern Cross (1975), was a commercial and critical disappointment.
The group disbanded in 1976, with Robertson retiring from the music business and the other members pursuing solo careers. In 1983, Helm, Danko, and Hudson reformed the Band without Robertson and released the album Jericho (1993), which was moderately successful. The Band toured sporadically until 1999 when they embarked on their final tour, The Last Waltz Tour, with Bob Dylan and a host of other guests.
The Band’s live performances were marked by their unique blend of musical styles, extended improvisations, and a wide variety of cover songs. The group was also known for its stagecraft, which featured elaborate light shows and special effects.
The Band has been cited as an influence by a wide variety of artists, including Bob Dylan, The Grateful Dead, The Rolling Stones, Neil Young, Eric Clapton, and The Eagles. The group was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1989 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. In 2008, Rolling Stone ranked them No. 50 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
4. Robertson’s Later Career and Influence
In the later years of his career, Robbie Robertson continued to influence the music industry with his innovative and experimental approach to songwriting and production. He continued to work with some of the biggest names in music, including Bob Dylan, The Band, and Eric Clapton. He also produced and wrote the score for the Martin Scorsese film “The Last Waltz.” In the 1980s and 1990s, Robertson worked on a number of solo projects, including the albums “Robbie Robertson” and “Storyville.” He also wrote the music for the films “Cadence” and “The Color of Money.” In the 2000s, Robertson returned to working with The Band, touring and recording with them until their final performance in 2016. He was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. Robertson’s later career was marked by continued success and innovation, and he remains one of the most respected and influential musicians of his generation.