Robbie Robertson

Robertson in 2000
Jaime Royal Robertson

(1943-07-05)July 5, 1943
DiedAugust 9, 2023(2023-08-09) (aged 80)
  • Musician
  • songwriter
  • singer
Years active1957–2023
  • Dominique Bourgeois
    (m. 1968; div. 1977)
  • Janet Zuccarini
    (m. 2023)
Children3, including Sebastian
Musical career
  • Guitar
  • vocals
  • keyboards
Formerly ofThe Band

Jaime Royal "Robbie" Robertson[1] OC (July 5, 1943 – August 9, 2023) was a Canadian musician.[2] He was lead guitarist for Bob Dylan in the mid-late 1960s and early-mid 1970s, guitarist and songwriter with the Band from their inception until 1978, and a solo artist.

Robertson's work with the Band was instrumental in creating the Americana music genre. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Canadian Music Hall of Fame as a member of the Band, and into Canada's Walk of Fame, with the Band and on his own. He is ranked 59th in Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 100 greatest guitarists.[3] He wrote "The Weight", "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down", and "Up on Cripple Creek" with the Band and had solo hits with "Broken Arrow" and "Somewhere Down the Crazy River", and many others. He was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Songwriters.[4]

Robertson collaborated on film and TV soundtracks, usually with director Martin Scorsese, beginning in the rockumentary film The Last Waltz (1978) and continuing through dramatic films including Raging Bull (1980), The King of Comedy (1983), Casino (1995), Gangs of New York (2002), The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), Silence (2016), The Irishman (2019), and Killers of the Flower Moon (2023).

Early life

Jaime Royal Robertson[5] was born an only child on July 5, 1943. His mother was born Rosemarie Dolly Chrysler on February 6, 1922.[6] She was Cayuga and Mohawk,[7] raised on the Six Nations of the Grand River reserve southwest of Toronto, near Hamilton. She lived with an aunt in the Cabbagetown neighbourhood and worked at the Coro jewellery plating factory. She met James Patrick Robertson there and they married in 1942.[8]

The couple continued working at the factory and the three lived in several Toronto neighbourhoods while Robbie was a child.[9]: 55 [10]: 65  He often travelled with his mother to the reserve to visit family. Here he was taught guitar, particularly by his older cousin Herb Myke. He became a fan of rock and roll and rhythm and blues through the radio, listening to disc jockey George "Hound Dog" Lorenz play rock on WKBW from Buffalo, New York, and staying up to listen to John R.'s all-night blues show on WLAC, a clear-channel station in Nashville, Tennessee.[11]: 56 [12]: 65–66 

In his teens, Robertson's parents separated. His mother told him his biological father was not James, but Alexander David Klegerman, an American Jewish man she met at work.[13] He became a professional gambler and died in a hit-and-run accident on the Queen Elizabeth Way. She had been with him while James was stationed in Newfoundland with the Canadian Army before they married. She arranged for her son to meet his paternal uncles Morris (Morrie) and Nathan (Natie) Klegerman.[14][15][16]

Early career

When Robertson was 14, he worked two brief summer jobs in the travelling carnival circuit, first for a few days in a suburb of Toronto, and later as an assistant at a freak show for three weeks during the Canadian National Exhibition. He later drew from this for his song "Life is a Carnival" (with the Band) and the movie Carny (1980), which he both produced and starred in.[17]

The first band Robertson joined was Little Caesar and the Consuls, formed in 1956 by pianist/vocalist Bruce Morshead and guitarist Gene MacLellan. He stayed with the group for almost a year, playing popular songs of the day at local teen dances. In 1957 he formed Robbie and the Rhythm Chords with his friend Pete "Thumper" Traynor (who later founded Traynor Amplifiers). They changed the name to Robbie and the Robots after they watched the film Forbidden Planet and took a liking to the film's character Robby the Robot. Traynor customized Robertson's guitar for the Robots, fitting it with antennae and wires to give it a space age look. Traynor and Robertson joined with pianist Scott Cushnie and became The Suedes. At a Suedes show on October 5, 1959, when they played CHUM Radio's Hif Fi Club on Toronto's Merton Street, Ronnie Hawkins first became aware of them and was impressed enough to join them for a few numbers. [10]: 66 [11]: 56–57 [18][19]

With Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks

Robertson began shadowing Hawkins. After the Suedes opened for the Arkansas-based rockabilly group Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks at Dixie Arena, Hawkins hired Robertson for the Hawks' road crew.[20] Hawkins recorded two songs co-credited to Robertson, "Hey Baba Lou" and "Someone Like You", for his album Mr. Dynamo (1959), and brought Robertson to the Brill Building in New York City to help him choose songs for the rest of the album.[1]: 14–15 [10]: 66–67 [18]: 45–46 

Ronnie Hawkins (here pictured performing in 2014) hired Robertson as a member of his backup band the Hawks in 1960.

Hawkins hired pianist Scott Cushnie away from the Suedes, and took him on tour in Arkansas with the Hawks. When the Hawks' bass player left the group, Cushnie recommended that Hawkins hire Robertson to replace him on bass.[18]: 49, 51–52 [21]

Hawkins invited Robertson to Arkansas, and then flew to the UK to perform on television there. Left in Arkansas, Robertson spent his living allowance on records and practised intensively each day. Upon returning, Hawkins hired him to play bass. Cushnie left the band a few months later.[21] Robertson soon switched from bass to playing lead guitar for the Hawks.[1]: 20–22 [10]: 68–70, 75  Robertson developed into a guitar virtuoso.[22]

Roy Buchanan, a few years older than Robertson, was briefly a member of the Hawks and became an important influence on Robertson's guitar style: "Standing next to Buchanan on stage for several months, Robertson was able to absorb Buchanan's deft manipulations with his volume speed dial, his tendency to bend multiple strings for steel guitar-like effect, his rapid sweep picking, and his passion for bending past the root and fifth notes during solo flights."[23]

Drummer/singer Levon Helm was already a member of the Hawks and soon became close friends with Robertson.[10]: 76  The Hawks continued to tour the United States and Canada, adding Rick Danko, Richard Manuel, and Garth Hudson to the Hawks lineup in 1961.[24]

This lineup, which later became the Band, toured with Hawkins throughout 1962 and into 1963.[10]: 95, 100  They also hired the saxophone player Jerry Penfound and later Bruce Bruno, who were both with the group in their intermediary period as Levon and the Hawks.[25][26]

Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks cut sessions for Roulette Records throughout 1961–1963, all of which Robertson appeared on. The sessions included three singles: "Come Love" b/w "I Feel Good" (Roulette 4400 1961); "Who Do You Love" b/w "Bo Diddley" (Roulette 4483 1963); and "There's A Screw Loose" b/w "High Blood Pressure" (Roulette 4502 1963).[18]: 420 [27]

With Levon and the Hawks

The Hawks left Ronnie Hawkins at the beginning of 1964 to go on their own.[28] The members of the Hawks were losing interest in playing in the rockabilly style and favoured blues and soul music. In early 1964, the group approached agent Harold Kudlets about representing them, which he agreed to do, booking them a year's worth of shows in the same circuits as they had been in before with Ronnie Hawkins. Originally dubbed The Levon Helm Sextet, the group included all of the future members of the Band, plus Jerry Penfound on saxophone and Bob Bruno on vocals.[10]: 105–106 

After Bruno left in May 1964, the group changed their name to Levon and the Hawks. Penfound stayed with the group until 1965.[25] Kudlets kept the group busy performing throughout 1964 and into 1965, finally booking them into two lengthy summer engagements at the popular nightclub Tony Mart's in Somers Point, New Jersey, at the Shore.[11]: 64–66, 68  They played six nights a week alongside Conway Twitty and other acts.[29]

The members of Levon and the Hawks befriended blues artist John P. Hammond while he was performing in Toronto in 1964.[18]: 84–85  Later in the year, the group agreed to work on Hammond's album So Many Roads (released in 1965) at the same time that they were playing the Peppermint Lounge in New York City.[11]: 65  Robertson played guitar throughout the album, and was billed "Jaime R. Robertson" in the album's credits.[10]: 110 

Levon and the Hawks cut a single "Uh Uh Uh" b/w "Leave Me Alone" under the name the Canadian Squires in March 1965. Both songs were written by Robertson. The single was recorded in New York[11]: 66  and released on Apex Records in the United States and on Ware Records in Canada.[30]: 95  As Levon and the Hawks, the group cut an afternoon session for Atco Records later in 1965,[18]: 81  which yielded two singles, "The Stones I Throw" b/w "He Don't Love You" (Atco 6383) and "Go, Go, Liza Jane" b/w "He Don't Love You" (Atco 6625).[18]: 420  Robertson also wrote all three of the tracks on Levon and the Hawks' Atco singles.[30]: 95 

With Bob Dylan and the Hawks

1965–1966 World Tour

See also: Electric Dylan controversy and Bob Dylan 1966 World Tour

Toward the end of Levon and the Hawks' second engagement at Tony Mart's in New Jersey, in August 1965, Robertson received a call from Albert Grossman Management requesting a meeting with singer Bob Dylan.[30]: 21 [31] The group had been recommended to both Grossman and to Dylan by Mary Martin, one of Grossman's employees; she was originally from Toronto and was a friend of the band.[11]: 68–69 [32] Dylan was also aware of the group through his friend John Hammond,[11]: 69  whose album So Many Roads members of the Hawks had performed on.

Robertson agreed to meet with Dylan. Initially, Dylan intended simply to hire Robertson as the guitarist for his backing group. Robertson refused the offer, but did agree to play two shows with Dylan, one at the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium in Forest Hills, New York on August 28, and one at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles on September 3. Robertson suggested they use Levon Helm on drums for the shows.[33]: 5 

Robertson and Helm performed in Dylan's backing band, along with Harvey Brooks and Al Kooper for both shows. The first at Forest Hills received a predominantly hostile response, but the second in Los Angeles was received slightly more favourably.[11]: 70  Dylan flew up to Toronto and rehearsed with Levon and the Hawks September 15–17, as Levon and the Hawks finished an engagement there, and hired the full band for his upcoming tour.[18]: 96–99 

Bob Dylan and the Hawks toured the United States throughout October–December 1965,[34]: 8–9  with each show consisting of two sets: an acoustic show featuring only Dylan on guitar and harmonica, and an electric set featuring Dylan backed by the Hawks. The tours were largely met with a hostile reaction from fans who knew Dylan as a prominent figure in the American folk music revival, and thought his move into rock music a betrayal. Helm left the group after their November 28 performance in Washington, D.C. Session drummer Bobby Gregg replaced Helm for the December dates, and Sandy Konikoff was brought in to replace Gregg in January 1966.[18]: 105, 109 

Dylan and the Hawks played more dates in the continental United States from February to March 1966 of Bob Dylan's 1966 World Tour. From April 9-May 27, they played Hawaii, Australia, Europe, and the UK and Ireland. Drummer Sandy Konikoff left after the Pacific Northwest dates in March,[11]: 74  and Mickey Jones replaced him, staying with the group for the remainder of the tour. The Australian and European legs of the tour received a particularly harsh response from disgruntled folk fans. The May 17 Manchester Free Trade Hall show is best known for an angry audience member audibly yelling "Judas!" at Dylan; it became a frequently-bootlegged live show from the tour,[35]: 73–76  but was eventually released officially as The Bootleg Series Vol. 4: Bob Dylan Live 1966, The "Royal Albert Hall" Concert.[36]: 4 

The European leg of the tour was filmed by documentary filmmaker D. A. Pennebaker, but completion of a planned film was delayed. After recovering from an accident, Dylan decided to edit it himself.[36] ABC television rejected it,[37] and it was never commercially released. It was screened as Eat the Document in 1972 at the Whitney Museum in New York.[38][39]

On November 30, 1965, Dylan cut a studio session with members of the Hawks,[40] which yielded the non-LP single "Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?" Dylan completed the Blonde on Blonde album in Nashville in mid-February 1966, employing Robertson for one of these sessions, which took place on February 14.[41]

"Basement Tapes" period

See also: The Basement Tapes and The Bootleg Series Vol. 11: The Basement Tapes Complete

The "Big Pink" house in 2006. "Big Pink" was the house where Bob Dylan and the Band's Basement Tapes were recorded, and the music from the Band album Music From Big Pink was written.

On July 29, 1966, Dylan sustained an injured neck from a motorcycle accident, and retreated to a quiet domestic life with his new wife and child in upstate New York.[42]: 216–219  Some of the members of the Hawks were living at the Chelsea Hotel in New York City at the time,[42]: 220  and were kept on a weekly retainer by Dylan's management.[32]

In February 1967, Dylan invited the members of the Hawks to come up to Woodstock, New York to work on music.[32] Robertson had met a French-Canadian woman on the Paris stop of Dylan's 1966 world tour,[43] and the two moved into a house in the Woodstock area.[18]: 135  The remaining three members of the Hawks rented a house near West Saugerties, New York; it was later dubbed "Big Pink" because of its pink exterior.[42]: 220–221 

Dylan and the members of the Hawks worked together at the Big Pink house every day to rehearse and generate ideas for new songs, many of which they recorded in Big Pink's makeshift basement studio.[18]: 137  The recordings were made between the late spring and autumn of 1967.[44]Previous Hawks member Levon Helm returned to the group in August 1967.[30]: 27  By this time, Robertson's guitar style had evolved to be more supportive of the songs and less devoted to displaying speed and virtuosity.[23]

In time, word about these sessions began to circulate, and in 1968, Rolling Stone magazine co-founder Jann Wenner brought attention to these tracks in an article entitled "Dylan's Basement Tape Should Be Released".[44][45]

In 1969, a bootleg album with a plain white cover compiled by two incognito music industry insiders featured a collection of seven tracks from these sessions. The album, which became known as The Great White Wonder, began to appear in independent record stores and receive radio airplay. This album became a runaway success[35]: 42–46  and helped to launch the bootleg recording industry.[46]

In 1975, Robertson produced an official compilation, The Basement Tapes, which included a selection of tracks from the sessions. An exhaustive collection of all 138 extant recordings was released in 2014 as The Bootleg Series Vol. 11: The Basement Tapes Complete.[44]

With The Band

See also: The Band

1967–1968: Music From Big Pink

Robertson performing live with the Band

In late 1967, Dylan left to record his next album, John Wesley Harding (1967). After recording the basic tracks, Dylan asked Robertson and Garth Hudson about playing on the album to fill out the sound. Robertson liked the starkness of the sound and recommended Dylan leave the tracks as they are.[18]: 147–48  Dylan worked with the Hawks again when they were his backup band for two Woody Guthrie memorial concerts at Carnegie Hall in New York City in January 1968.[30]: 29  Three of these performances were later released by Columbia Records on the LP A Tribute to Woody Guthrie, Vol. 1 (1972).[47]

Over the course of the "Basement Tapes" period, the group had developed a sound of their own, and Grossman went to Los Angeles to shop the group to a major label, securing a contract with Capitol Records.[30]: 22, 28  The group went to New York to begin recording songs with music producer John Simon. Capitol brought the group to Los Angeles to finish the album.[48] The resulting album, Music From Big Pink,[49] was released in August 1968.[50]

Robertson wrote four of the songs on Music From Big Pink, including "The Weight", "Chest Fever", "Caledonia Mission", and "To Kingdom Come". He is listed in the songwriting credits as "J.R. Robertson". He sang lead vocal on the track "To Kingdom Come"; he did not sing on another Band song released to the public until "Knockin' Lost John" on 1977's Islands.[18]: 158 [48] Two of Robertson's compositions for the album, "The Weight" and "Chest Fever", became important touchstones in the group's career. "The Weight" was influenced by the films of director Luis Buñuel, in particular Nazarín (1959) and Viridiana (1961), and reflects the recurring theme in Buñuel's films about the impossibility of sainthood. The song portrays an individual who attempts to take a saintly pilgrimage, and becomes mired down with requests from other people to do favors for them along the way. The mention of "Nazareth" at the beginning of the song refers to Nazareth, Pennsylvania, where the C. F. Martin & Company guitar manufacturer is located; it was inspired by Robertson seeing the word "Nazareth" in the hole of his Martin guitar.[1]: 20  Although "The Weight" reached #21 on the British radio charts,[51] it did not fare as well on the American charts, initially stalling at #63.

The song gained traction following more successful covers by Jackie DeShannon (US #55, 1968), Aretha Franklin (US #19, 1969), and the Supremes with the Temptations (US #46, 1969), and the song's inclusion in the movie Easy Rider (1969), which became a runaway success. "The Weight" has since become the Band's best known song. It has been covered by many artists, appeared in dozens of films and documentaries, and has become a staple of American rock music.[18]: 168–173 [30]: 32 [52][53]

When Music from Big Pink was released in 1968, the Band initially avoided media attention, and discouraged Capitol Records from promotional efforts. They also did not immediately pursue touring to support the album, and declined to be interviewed for a year.[30]: 38  The resulting mystery surrounding the group prompted speculation in the underground press.[48] Music from Big Pink received excellent reviews, and the album influenced many well-known musicians of the period.[citation needed]

1969–1973: Expansion and acclaim

The Band in 1969, Robertson is second from the right

In early 1969, the Band rented a home from Sammy Davis Jr. in Hollywood Hills, and converted the pool house behind it into a studio to recreate the "clubhouse" atmosphere that they had previously enjoyed at Big Pink. The band began recording every day in the pool house studio, working on a tight schedule to complete the album.[18]: 176–178  An additional three tracks were recorded at The Hit Factory in New York in April 1969.[49] Robertson did most of the audio engineering on the album.[30]: 41 

The Band began performing regularly in spring 1969, with their first live dates as the Band taking place at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco.[54] Their most notable performances that year were at the 1969 Woodstock Festival and the UK Isle of Wight Festival with Bob Dylan in August.[18]: 201–245 

The Band's album The Band was released in September 1969, and became a critical and commercial success. The album received almost universal critical praise, peaked at #9 on the U.S. pop charts, and stayed on the Top 40 for 24 weeks.[55]: 25  The Band works as a loose concept album of Americana themes,[56] and was instrumental in the creation of the Americana music genre.[49] It was included in the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry in 2009.[57] The song from this album that had the strongest cultural influence was "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down". The song explores a Confederate man's life after defeat of the South following the American Civil War. It incorporates historical events to create a larger American mythos. Although the Band's original version was only released as the B side of the single "Up on Cripple Creek", a cover version by Joan Baez went to #3 on the charts in 1971 and helped to popularize the song.[18]: 192–193 [58]

Several other tracks from The Band received significant radio airplay, and became staples in the group's concert appearances. "Up on Cripple Creek" peaked at #25 in late 1969 in the United States, and was their only Top 30 hit there.[59] "Rag Mama Rag" reached #16 in the UK in April 1970, the highest chart position of any single by the group in that country.[51] "Whispering Pines", co-written by Richard Manuel, was released as a single in France in 1970,[60] and was later the title of a 2009 book about Canadian contributions to the Americana music genre by Jason Schneider.[11] On November 2, 1969, the Band appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, one of only two television appearances they made.[30]: 45 

On January 12, 1970, the Band was featured on the cover of Time magazine.[61] This was the first time a North American rock band had been featured on the cover of the magazine.[62] The Band rented The Woodstock Playhouse in Woodstock, New York with the intent of recording a new live album there, but the city council voted against it, so they recorded on location, but without an audience. Robertson handled most of the songwriting duties as before.[18]: 235–236  Robertson brought in Todd Rundgren to engineer the album which was recorded in two weeks' time.[63] These sessions became their third album, Stage Fright, which became the Band's highest-charting album, peaking at #5 on September 5 and staying on the Billboard Top 40 for 14 weeks.[55]: 25 

Robertson performing live with the Band in 1971

The Band's next album, Cahoots, was recorded at Albert Grossman's newly built Bearsville Studios and was released in October 1971. The album received mixed reviews, and peaked at #24 on the Billboard charts,[30]: 54–58  only remaining on the Billboard Top 40 for five weeks.[55]: 25  Cahoots is notable for its cover of Bob Dylan's "When I Paint My Masterpiece", as well as for featuring the concert favourite "Life Is a Carnival". The inclusion of "When I Paint My Masterpiece" came about when Dylan stopped by Robertson's home during the recording of Cahoots and Robertson asked if he might have any songs to contribute. That led to Dylan playing an unfinished version of "When I Paint My Masterpiece" for him. Dylan soon completed the song and the Band recorded it for the album. "Life Is a Carnival" features horn parts written by producer and arranger Allen Toussaint. It was the only track from Cahoots the Band kept in their set list through to The Last Waltz concert and film.[30]: 54–55 

The Band continued to tour throughout 1970–71.[54] A live album recorded at a series of shows at the Academy of Music in New York City between December 28–31, 1971,[54] was released in 1972 as the double album Rock Of Ages.[64] Rock of Ages peaked at #6, and remained in the Top 40 for 14 weeks.[55]: 25 

After the Academy of Music shows, the Band again retreated from performing live. They returned to the stage on July 28, 1973,[54] to play the Summer Jam at Watkins Glen alongside the Allman Brothers Band and the Grateful Dead. A recording of the Band's performance was released by Capitol Records as the album Live at Watkins Glen in 1995.[65] With over 600,000 people in attendance,[66] the festival set a record for "Pop Festival Attendance" in the Guinness Book of World Records. The record was first published in the 1976 edition of the book.[67] In October 1973, the Band released an album of cover songs entitled Moondog Matinee,[30]: 69 [64] which peaked at #28 on the Billboard charts.[55]: 25  Around the time of the recording of Moondog Matinee, Robertson began working on an ambitious project entitled Works that was never finished or released. One lyric from the Works project, "Lay a flower in the snow", was used in Robertson's song "Fallen Angel", which appeared on his 1987 self-titled solo album.[64]

1974: Reunion with Bob Dylan

In February 1973,[68]: 2  Bob Dylan relocated from Woodstock, New York to Malibu, California.[69][70] Coincidentally, Robertson moved to Malibu in the summer of 1973, and by October of the year the rest of the members of the Band had followed suit, moving into properties near Zuma Beach.[citation needed]

Bob Dylan and the Band performing at the Chicago Stadium in Chicago, Illinois, on the 1974 reunion tour, Robertson is second from the left

David Geffen had signed Dylan to Asylum Records, and worked with promoter Bill Graham on the concept that became the Bob Dylan and the Band 1974 Tour. It was his first tour in over seven years.[citation needed]

Meanwhile, Bill Graham took out a full-page advertisement for the Bob Dylan and the Band tour in The New York Times. The response was one of the largest in entertainment history up to that point, with between 5 and 6 million requests for tickets mailed in for 650,000 seats. Graham's office ended up selling tickets off on a lottery basis, and Dylan and the Band netted $2 million from the deal.[11]: 298 [18]: 284–286 [30]: 70 

Amongst the rehearsals and preparations, the Band went into the studio with Bob Dylan to record a new album for Asylum Records, Planet Waves (1974). Sessions took place at Village Recorder in West Los Angeles, California, from November 2–14, 1973.[71] Planet Waves was released on February 9, 1974. The album was #1 on the Billboard album charts for four weeks, and spent 12 weeks total in the Billboard Top 40.[55]: 25  Planet Waves was Bob Dylan's first #1 album,[72] and the first and only time Bob Dylan and the Band recorded a studio album together.[18]: 287 

The 1974 tour began at the Chicago Stadium on January 3, 1974, and ended at The Forum in Inglewood, California on February 14.[73] The shows began with more songs from the new Planet Waves album and with covers that Dylan and the Band liked, but as the tour went on, they moved toward playing older and more familiar material, only keeping "Forever Young" from the Planet Waves album in the set list.[74] Dylan and the Band played a number of tracks from the controversial 1965–1966 World Tour, this time to wildly enthusiastic response from the audience where there had been mixed reaction and boos nine years previously.[18]: 291 

The final three shows of the tour at The Forum in Inglewood, California were recorded and assembled into the double album Before the Flood.[73] Credited to "Bob Dylan/The Band", Before the Flood was released by Asylum Records on July 20, 1974. The album debuted at #3 on the Billboard charts, and spent ten weeks in the Top Forty.[55]: 26 

1974–1975: Shangri-La Studios

Following the 1974 reunion tour with Bob Dylan, rock manager Elliot Roberts booked the Band with the recently reunited Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young.[54] On September 4, both artists played Wembley Stadium in London, appearing with Jesse Colin Young and Joni Mitchell.[18]: 308–310 [75]

The entrance to Shangri-La Studios in 2016. The Band had the ranch house on the Shangri-La property converted into a recording studio in 1974.

After moving to Malibu in 1973, Robertson and the Band had discovered a ranch in Malibu near Zuma Beach called "Shangri-La", and decided to lease the property. The main house on the property had originally been built by Lost Horizon (1937) actress Margo Albert,[76] and the ranch had been the filming and stabling site for the Mister Ed television show in the 1960s. In the interim, the house had served as a high-class bordello.[77]

The album release of The Basement Tapes, credited to Bob Dylan and the Band, was the first album production that took place in the new studio. The album, produced by Robertson, featured a selection of tapes from the original 1967 Basement Tapes sessions with Dylan, as well as demos for tracks eventually recorded for the Music From Big Pink album. Robertson cleaned up the tracks, and the album was released in July 1975.[11]: 298 [18]: 311–13 

Shangri-La Studios proved to be a return to a clubhouse atmosphere that the Band had enjoyed previously at Big Pink, and in the spring of 1975, the group began work on Northern Lights – Southern Cross, their first release of original material in four years.[citation needed] One of the best known tracks on the album is "Acadian Driftwood", the first song with specifically Canadian subject material. Robertson was inspired to write "Acadian Driftwood" after seeing the documentary L'Acadie, l'Acadie (1971) on Canadian television while in Montreal.[11]: 298–299 [30]: 77–79  Two other notable tracks from that album are "It Makes No Difference" and "Ophelia".[citation needed]

Northern Lights – Southern Cross was released on November 1, 1975. The album received generally positive reviews,[11]: 300  and reached #26 on the Billboard charts, remaining on the Top 40 for five weeks.[55]: 26 [78]

1976–1978: The Last Waltz

The Band began touring again in June 1976, performing throughout the summer.[54] The members of the Band were splintering off to work on other projects, with Levon Helm building a studio in Woodstock and Rick Danko having been contracted to Arista Records as a solo artist.[79] While on the summer tour, member Richard Manuel severely injured his neck in a boating accident, so ten dates were cancelled.[11]: 300–01 [18]: 324–5  During this time, Robertson suggested the Band cease to tour. He said they agreed on a "grand finale" show, part ways to work on their various projects, then regroup.[30]: 82 [80][81] Helm later made the case in his autobiography, This Wheel's on Fire, that Robertson had forced the Band's breakup on the rest of the group.[82]

Concert promoter Bill Graham booked the Band at the Winterland Ballroom on American Thanksgiving, November 25, 1976. The Last Waltz was a gala event, with ticket prices of $25 per person. It included a Thanksgiving dinner served to the audience, and featured the Band performing with various musical guests.[79] The onstage guest list included Ronnie Hawkins, Muddy Waters, Paul Butterfield, Dr. John, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, Neil Diamond, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Emmylou Harris, and others.[83]

The Band with musical guests performing "I Shall Be Released" at The Last Waltz concert on November 25, 1976

Robertson wanted to document the event on film, and approached director Martin Scorsese to see if he was interested in shooting the concert.[84][85][86]: 73–74  They developed a 200-page script for the show, listing out in columns the lyrics of the songs, who was singing what part, and what instruments were being featured. It included columns for the camera and lighting work.[85]

Scorsese brought in all-star cameramen such as Michael Chapman, László Kovács, and Vilmos Zsigmond to film the show in 35mm.[84][85] John Simon, producer on the Band's first two albums, was brought in to coordinate rehearsals and work as musical director.[87] Boris Leven was brought in as art director. Jonathan Taplin assumed the role of executive producer, and Robertson worked as producer of the film.[18]: 336  Rehearsals for The Last Waltz concert began in early November. Warner Bros. Records president Mo Ostin offered to fund its filming in exchange for the right to release its music on an album. The Band were contractually obligated to supply Capitol Records with one more album before they could be released to work with Warner Bros. So in between rehearsing, they worked on the studio album Islands for Capitol. Robertson wrote or co-wrote eight of the ten tracks. One of the songs, "Knockin' Lost John", features Robertson on vocals, and was the first Band song Robertson had sung on since "To Kingdom Come" from Music From Big Pink. "Christmas Must Be Tonight" was inspired by the birth of Robertson's son, Sebastian, in July 1974.[18]: 336–8 [30]: 82 

Approximately 5,000 people attended the concert.[88] The event began at 5 pm, beginning with the audience members being served a full traditional Thanksgiving meal at candlelit tables, with a vegetarian table serving an alternate menu as an option. The Berkeley Promenade Orchestra played waltz music for dancing afterward. The tables were cleared and moved at 8 pm. At 9 pm, the Band played songs for an hour, beginning with "Up On Cripple Creek". Just after 10 pm, Robertson introduced Ronnie Hawkins, the first onstage guest, with a succession of guest stars appearing with the group until just after midnight.

The group took a 30-minute break, during which several Bay Area poets, including Lawrence Ferlinghetti,[89] Diane di Prima,[90] and Michael McClure[91] performed readings of their poems. After the break, the Band returned to the stage, performing, among other songs, a new composition entitled "The Last Waltz Theme" that Robertson had just completed less than 48 hours prior. Bob Dylan was brought in at the end of this second set, performing several songs, and finally being joined with the other guest stars for a finale performance of "I Shall Be Released". This was then followed with two all-star jam sessions, after which the Band returned to the stage to close the show with one more song, their rendition of "Baby Don't You Do It".[18]: 351 [80]

After The Last Waltz concert event was finished, director Martin Scorsese had 400 reels of raw footage to work with,[88] and began editing the footage. The film was then sold to United Artists. In the meantime, Robertson and Scorsese continued to brainstorm more ideas for the film. In April 1977, country singer Emmylou Harris and gospel vocal group the Staple Singers were filmed on a sound stage at MGM performing with the Band. Emmylou Harris performed on "Evangeline", a new song written by Robertson, and the Staples Singers performed on a new recording of "The Weight", which they already recorded in 1968.[18]: 352–53 [30]: 85–87 [86]: 73–74  Scorsese's next idea was to intersperse the concert footage with interviews of the Band that told their story. Scorsese conducted the interviews.[citation needed] The Last Waltz album was released by Warner Brothers Records on April 7, 1978, as a 3-LP set.[92] The first five sides feature live performances from the concert, and the last side contains studio recordings from the MGM sound stage sessions, including Out Of The Blue, which would be released as a single and which is the third and last Band song on which Robbie sings lead.[93] The album peaked at #16 on the Billboard charts, and remained in the Top 40 for 8 weeks.[55]: 26 

The Last Waltz film was released to theatres on April 26, 1978.[94] The film fared well with both rock and film critics. Robertson and Scorsese made appearances throughout America and Europe to promote the film.[18]: 361  Over time, The Last Waltz has become lauded by many as an important and pioneering rockumentary. Its influence has been felt on subsequent rock music films such as Talking Heads' Stop Making Sense (1984), and U2's Rattle and Hum (1988).[95]

In his mixed review Roger Ebert wrote, "In The Last Waltz, we have musicians who seem to have bad memories. Who are hanging on. Scorsese's direction is mostly limited to closeups and medium shots of performances; he ignores the audience. The movie was made at the end of a difficult period in his own life, and at a particularly hard time (the filming coincided with his work on New York, New York). This is not a record of serene men, filled with nostalgia, happy to be among friends."[96]

Work outside of the Band (1970–1977)

Singer-songwriter Jesse Winchester performing in 2011, Robertson produced his self-titled debut album in 1970

Robertson produced Jesse Winchester's debut self-titled album, which was released in 1970 on Ampex Records.[97] The album features Robertson playing guitar throughout the album, and co-credits the track "Snow" to Robertson as well.[98]

Robertson played guitar on ex-Beatle Ringo Starr's third solo album, Ringo (1973), performing with four-fifths of the Band on the track "Sunshine Life For Me (Sail Away Raymond)".[99][100] Robertson contributed a guitar solo on the track "Snookeroo" on Starr's fourth album, Goodnight Vienna (1974).[101]

Robertson played guitar for Joni Mitchell on the track "Raised on Robbery", which was released on her album Court and Spark. In 1974, Robertson also played guitar on Carly Simon's version of "Mockingbird", which featured Simon singing with her then-husband James Taylor.[102]

In 1975, Robertson produced and played guitar on singer/guitarist Hirth Martinez's debut album Hirth From Earth. Bob Dylan had heard Martinez, and recommended him to Robertson. Robertson identified strongly with Martinez' music, helped him to secure a recording contract with Warner Bros. Records, and agreed to produce Martinez' debut album. He also played guitar on Martinez' follow-up album, Big Bright Street (1977).[18]: 321–322 [103][104][105]

In 1975, Eric Clapton recorded the album No Reason to Cry at the Band's Shangri-La Studios with help from members of the Band.[18]: 326  Robertson played lead guitar on the track "Sign Language".[106]

In the mid-1970s, Robertson connected with singer Neil Diamond, and the two began collaborating on a concept album about the life and struggles of a Tin Pan Alley songwriter. The resulting album, entitled Beautiful Noise, was recorded at Shangri-La Studios in early 1976. It reached #6 on the Billboard charts and remained in the Top 40 for sixteen weeks. Robertson produced the album, co-wrote the track "Dry Your Eyes" with Diamond, and played guitar on "Dry Your Eyes", "Lady-Oh", and "Jungletime". He produced Diamond's live double album Love at the Greek (1977), which was recorded in 1976 at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles. Love at the Greek reached #8 on the Billboard charts and remained in the Top 40 for nine weeks.[18]: 321–322 [55]: 89 [107]

In 1977, Robertson contributed to two album projects from the Band alumni. Robertson played guitar on "Java Blues" on Rick Danko's self-titled debut album, and also played guitar on the Earl King-penned "Sing, Sing, Sing" on the album Levon Helm & the RCO All-Stars.[10]: 273 [108]

Also in 1977, Robertson contributed to the second self-titled album by singer-songwriter Libby Titus, who was the former girlfriend of Levon Helm.[10]: 213, 279–280  Robertson produced the track "The Night You Took Me To Barbados In My Dreams" (co-written by Titus and Hirth Martinez), and produced and played guitar on the Cole Porter standard "Miss Otis Regrets".[109]

Film career (1980–2023)


After the release of The Last Waltz, MGM/UA, who released the film, viewed Robertson as a potential film actor, and provided Robertson with an office on the MGM lot.[43][110] During this time, Martin Scorsese's agent, Harry Ulfand, contacted Robertson about the idea of producing a dramatic film about traveling carnivals, which Robertson was drawn to because of his childhood experiences working in carnivals. The screenplay for the film Carny was directed by documentary filmmaker Robert Kaylor.[111]

Although Robertson was initially only intended to be the producer of Carny, he ended up becoming the third lead actor in the film, playing the role of Patch, the patch man. Gary Busey played "Frankie", the carnival bozo and Patch's best friend. Jodie Foster was selected to play the role of Donna, a small town girl who runs away to join the carnival and threatens to come between the two friends. The film cast real life carnies alongside professional film actors, which created a difficult atmosphere on set.[17][112] Carny opened to theaters on June 13, 1980.[113] Also in 1980, Warner Bros released a soundtrack album for Carny, which is co-credited to Robertson and composer Alex North, who wrote the orchestral score for the film. The soundtrack was re-released on compact disc by Real Gone Music in 2015.[17]

Collaborations with Martin Scorsese

He's a frustrated musician, and I guess I was a frustrated filmmaker. So it was a perfect connect.

Robertson on his working relationship with Martin Scorsese[114]

After the production of Carny was completed, Robertson flew to New York to assist Martin Scorsese on the music for the film Raging Bull (1980).[17] Robertson and Scorsese would go on to have a long working relationship. The former found or created music to underscore the latter's films. Raging Bull was the first, and Robertson credited his work on it for sparking his interest in sourcing and underscoring film music.[114][115] Robertson supplied three newly recorded instrumental jazz tracks for sourced music, which he also produced. These three tracks feature Robertson playing guitar, along with performances from the Band alumni Garth Hudson and Richard Manuel. One of the tracks, "Webster Hall", is co-written by Robertson and Garth Hudson.[116] Robertson also worked with Scorsese on selecting the film's opening theme music, choosing the intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana by Italian opera composer Pietro Mascagni.[114] The soundtrack was finally released by Capitol Records in 2005 as a 37 track, 2-CD set.[116]

Robertson worked with Scorsese again on his next film, The King of Comedy (1983), and is credited in the film's opening credits for "Music Production".[117] Robertson contributed one original song, "Between Trains", to the film's soundtrack. The song was written in tribute to "Cowboy" Dan Johnson, an assistant of Scorsese's who had recently died.[18]: 379  Robertson produced the track, sang lead vocals, and played guitar and keyboards; the Band alumni Garth Hudson and Richard Manuel appeared on the track as well. A soundtrack album for the film was released by Warner Bros. in 1983.[citation needed]

In June 1986, Robertson began working with Scorsese on his next film The Color of Money.[118] In addition to sourcing music for the film, Robertson also composed the film's score;[119] it was the first time Robertson had ever written a dramatic underscore for a film.[120] Robertson brought in Canadian jazz composer Gil Evans to orchestrate the arrangements.[121] The best known song on The Color of Money soundtrack is Eric Clapton's "It's in the Way That You Use It", which was co-written by Robertson. "It's in the Way That You Use It" reached #1 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Songs chart in January 1987.[122] Robertson produced a song for the film with blues player Willie Dixon[123] entitled "Don't Tell Me Nothin'"; Dixon's track was co-written with Robertson. The Color of Money's soundtrack album was released by MCA Records.

Robertson worked on Scorsese's films Casino and Gangs of New York, and he provided music supervision for Shutter Island, The Wolf of Wall Street, and Silence.[citation needed] He scored 2019's The Irishman and consulted with music supervisor Randall Poster on the entire soundtrack.[124] He scored Scorsese's Killers of the Flower Moon shortly before his death.[125][126] The film is dedicated to Robertson.[127] He received a posthumous Academy Award nomination for his work on the film.[128]

Solo career

Geffen Records period (1987–1991)

Robbie Robertson (1987)

Robertson began work on his first solo album, Robbie Robertson, in July 1986 after signing to Geffen Records. Robertson chose fellow Canadian Daniel Lanois to produce the album. Much of the album was recorded at The Village Recorder in West Los Angeles, California. He recorded at Bearsville Studios near Woodstock, New York, and also in Dublin, Ireland, with U2, and in Bath, England, with Peter Gabriel. He employed a number of guest artists on the album, including U2, Gabriel, the Bodeans, and Maria McKee.[118][120] Garth Hudson and Rick Danko also made appearances on the album. Robertson wrote one track, "Fallen Angel", in honor of Richard Manuel,[120] after his death in March 1986.[18]: 384  Released on October 26, 1987,[129] Robbie Robertson peaked at #35 on the Billboard 200, remaining on the top 40 for three weeks.[55]: 260  The album charted even higher in the UK, peaking at #23 on the UK Albums Chart and remaining on the chart for 14 weeks.[130] Robbie Robertson received overwhelming critical acclaim at the time of its release,[131] being listed in the Top-Ten Albums of the Year by several critics in Billboard magazine's 1987 "The Critics' Choice" end of the year feature.[132] The album was #77 in Rolling Stone's 1989 list, "100 Best Albums of the Eighties".[133]

Robertson had his single largest hit in the UK with "Somewhere Down the Crazy River", which features his spoken word verses contrasted with singing in the choruses.[120] The song reached #15 in the UK Hit Singles chart, and remained in the chart for 11 weeks.[130] The video for "Somewhere Down The Crazy River" was directed by Martin Scorsese, and features Maria McKee in an acting role.[134] In the U.S., Robbie Robertson produced several hits on the Billboard Mainstream Rock charts, with "Showdown At Big Sky" coming in the highest (#2) and "Sweet Fire Of Love" the second highest (#7).[135] The album was nominated for a Grammy Award for "Best Rock / Vocal Album",[136] and was certified gold in the United States in 1991.[131] In Canada, Robertson won Album Of The Year, Best Male Vocalist Of The Year, and Producer Of The Year at the Juno Award ceremony in 1989.[137] In 1991, Rod Stewart recorded a version of "Broken Arrow" for his album Vagabond Heart.[138] Stewart's version of the song reached #20 on the Billboard 100 chart in the United States[139] and #2 on the Billboard Top Canadian Hit Singles chart in Canada.[140] "Broken Arrow" was also performed live by the Grateful Dead with Phil Lesh on vocals.[141]

Storyville (1991)

Storyville was released on September 30, 1991.[142] Robertson headed to New Orleans to collaborate with some of the city's natives like Aaron and Ivan Neville and the Rebirth Brass Band. Once again, Robertson brought in Band alumni Garth Hudson and Rick Danko as contributors.[143] The album reached #69 on the Billboard 200 chart.[144] Storyville received numerous positive reviews, with Rolling Stone giving it 4 1/2 stars out of 5,[145] and the Los Angeles Times awarding it 3 stars out of 4.[146] Two tracks from the album, "What About Now" and "Go Back To Your Woods", charted on the Billboard Mainstream Rock charts at #15 and #32 respectively.[135] The album was nominated for Grammy Awards in the categories "Best Rock Vocal Performance (solo)" and "Best Engineer".[136]

Production and session work (1984–1992)

Robertson co-produced the track "The Best of Everything", which was originally intended for the film The King of Comedy but instead was included on the Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers album Southern Accents.[147] Robertson also worked on the horn arrangements for the track, and brought in Band alumni Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson as guests.[148][149]

In 1986, Robertson appeared as a guest on the album Reconciled by the Call, playing guitar on the track "The Morning".[150]

Also in 1986, Robertson was brought on as creative consultant for Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll (1987), a feature film saluting Chuck Berry.[151] Robertson appears on camera, interviewing Chuck Berry, and then playing guitar while Berry recites poetry.[152]

In 1988, Robertson collaborated as a songwriter with Lone Justice lead singer Maria McKee. One of the songs they co-wrote, "Nobody's Child", was released on McKee's self-titled debut album in 1989.[153][154]

In 1989, Robertson recorded and produced a new version of the Band's "Christmas Must Be Tonight" for the Scrooged soundtrack. In 1990, Robertson appeared as a guest on the Ryuichi Sakamoto album Beauty, playing guitar on the song "Romance". He also contributed to the world music video and album production One World One Voice.[citation needed]

In 1992, Robertson produced the song "Love in Time" for Roy Orbison's posthumous album King of Hearts. "Love In Time" was a basic demo Orbison had recorded that was believed to be lost, but had just recently been rediscovered. Robertson set about augmenting Orbison's basic vocal track with new arrangements and instrumentation, with the intent of making it sound like the arrangements were there from the beginning instead of later additions.[155]

Later solo albums (1994–2019)

Music for the Native Americans (1994)

In 1994, Robertson returned to his roots, forming a First Nations group called the Red Road Ensemble for Music for the Native Americans, a collection of songs that accompanied a television documentary series produced by TBS. Like his songs, "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" and "Acadian Driftwood", he touched on history that connects to his life and family. The Battle of Wounded Knee and the near-extinction of the bison are outlined in the song "Ghost Dance".[156] He won a Juno Award for Producer of the Year.[137] The international success of "Mahk Jchi (Heartbeat Drum Song)" inspired a concert in Agrigento, Italy. He headlined the festival of Indigenous musicians and portions appeared in a PBS documentary.[citation needed]

Contact from the Underworld of Redboy (1998)

On Contact from the Underworld of Redboy, Robertson departed from his typical production style and delved deep into a mix of rock, native, and electronic music. He employed the services of Howie B, DJ Premier, and producer Marius de Vries (Björk, Massive Attack). Through the songs on the album, he took a close look at native traditions like Peyote healing. The album's opening track, "The Sound Is Fading", samples a recording of a young Native American singer from the 1940s that Robertson got from the Library Of Congress, and the song "Sacrifice" includes parts of an interview from prison with Leonard Peltier set to a soundscape produced by Robertson and de Vries. The racial epithet in the album's title comes from an experience Robertson had where some bullies referred to him as "Red Boy" while he was playing with his cousins.[citation needed] Rolling Stone gave the album 4 out of 5 stars,[157] and Robertson received a Juno Award for Best Music of Aboriginal Canada Recording.[137]

How to Become Clairvoyant (2011)

Released on April 5, 2011, How to Become Clairvoyant was Robertson's fifth solo release. It arose from impromptu demo sessions in Los Angeles with Eric Clapton[158] and features him, Steve Winwood, Trent Reznor, Tom Morello, Robert Randolph, Rocco Deluca, Angela McCluskey, and Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes. Robertson performed "He Don't Live Here No More" on Late Show with David Letterman and Later... with Jools Holland, then "Straight Down The Line" with Robert Randolph and the Roots on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.[159] How to Become Clairvoyant was also released as a deluxe edition containing five bonus tracks (four demos and the exclusive track "Houdini", named after the magician Harry Houdini). It debuted at No. 13 on the Billboard 200, marking the highest debut and highest chart position for his solo work. He teamed with painter and photographer Richard Prince to produce a limited collector's edition. The 2,500 LP-sized boxes came with an art book, a numbered set of five lithographs (including pieces by Prince and photographer Anton Corbijn), a set of original tarot cards, the original tracks, and ten bonuses.[160]

Sinematic (2019)

Released on September 20, 2019, Sinematic was Robertson's sixth solo album. It features Van Morrison joining Robertson as dueling hitmen on the track "I Hear You Paint Houses", as well as other allusions to the world of Scorsese's films. Citizen Cope, Derek Trucks, and Frédéric Yonnet make guest appearances on the album.[161]

Other work

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Robertson during a March 2011 radio interview

In Rome, he headlined the 1995 annual Labour Day concert festival with supporting acts Andrea Bocelli, Elvis Costello, and Radiohead.[citation needed]

In 1996, as executive soundtrack producer, Robertson heard a demo of "Change the World" and sent it to Clapton as a suggestion for the soundtrack of Phenomenon, starring John Travolta. Babyface produced the track. Change the World won 1997 Grammy Awards for Song of the Year and Record of the Year. In 1999, Robertson contributed songs to Oliver Stone's film, Any Given Sunday.[162]

In 2000, David Geffen and Mo Ostin convinced Robertson to join DreamWorks Records as a creative executive. Robertson, who persuaded Nelly Furtado to sign with the company, was actively involved with film projects and developing new artist talent, including signings of A.i., Boomkat, eastmountainsouth, and Dana Glover. On February 9, 2002, Robertson performed "Stomp Dance (Unity)" as part of the opening ceremony of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah. In 2004, he contributed the song "Shine Your Light" to the Ladder 49 soundtrack.[citation needed]

In 2005, Robertson was executive producer of the definitive box set for the Band, entitled A Musical History. In 2006, he recorded with Jerry Lee Lewis on the track "Twilight", a Robertson composition, for Lewis' album Last Man Standing.[citation needed] On July 28, 2007, at Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival in Bridgeview, Illinois, Robertson made a rare live appearance. Also in 2007, Robertson accepted an invitation to participate in Goin' Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino (Vanguard). With the group Galactic, Robertson contributed a version of Domino's "Goin' to the River".[citation needed]

Personal life

On March 24, 1968, Robertson married Dominique Bourgeois, a Canadian journalist.[163] They divorced in November 1977.[164] They had three children: daughters Alexandra and Delphine and son Sebastian.[165]

In March 2022, Robertson became engaged to his girlfriend of four years, Canadian entrepreneur, restaurateur, and Top Chef Canada judge Janet Zuccarini. On March 12, 2023, they were married, which was shared on her Instagram account.[166]

Robertson was a member of the Canadian charity Artists Against Racism.[167]

Robbie Robertson died in Los Angeles on August 9, 2023, at the age of 80, after a year-long battle with prostate cancer. Robertson's manager, Jared Levine, reported that Robertson "was surrounded by his family at the time of his death," including both Zuccarini and Bourgeois, and asked for donations to the Six Nations of the Grand River in lieu of flowers.[168][169]


In November 2023, director Martin Scorsese held a tribute concert for Robertson in Los Angeles. Notable guests in attendance were Joni Mitchell, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Lily Gladstone.[170][171]



See also: Robbie Robertson discography and The Band discography


Year Title Role(s) Notes Ref.
1972 Eat the Document Performer [172]
1978 The Last Waltz Performer/producer Directed by Martin Scorsese [173]
1980 Carny Actor/writer/producer/composer [173]
1980 Raging Bull Original music Directed by Martin Scorsese [174]
1982 The King of Comedy Music producer/composer Directed by Martin Scorsese [173]
1986 The Color of Money Composer Directed by Martin Scorsese [173]
1994 Jimmy Hollywood Composer [173]
1995 Robbie Robertson: Going Home Documentary [173]
1995 Casino Music consultant Directed by Martin Scorsese [173]
1995 The Crossing Guard Actor [173]
1996 Phenomenon Executive producer [173]
1996 Dakota Exile Narrator documentary [175]
1999 Forces of Nature Creative music consultant [173]
1999 Wolves Narrator [174]
1999 Any Given Sunday Songs [173]
2001 The Life and Times Himself Episode: "A Portrait of Robbie Robertson" [176]
2002 Gangs of New York Executive music producer Directed by Martin Scorsese [173]
2003 Festival Express Performer [173]
2004 Ladder 49 Original song "Shine Your Light" [177]
2007 Eric Clapton: Crossroads Guitar Festival 2007 Performer [178][179]
2010 Shutter Island Music supervisor Directed by Martin Scorsese [173]
2012 Curse of the Axe Narrator documentary [180]
2013 Eric Clapton: Crossroads Guitar Festival 2013 Performer [181]
2013 The Wolf of Wall Street Executive music producer Directed by Martin Scorsese [172]
2016 Silence Executive music producer Directed by Martin Scorsese [173]
2017 Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World Performer [182]
2018–23 Native America Narrator TV documentary series [174]
2019 The Irishman Executive producer / composer Directed by Martin Scorsese [173][174]
2019 Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band Himself [174]
2023 Killers of the Flower Moon Composer Directed by Martin Scorsese; posthumous release [174]

Honours and awards

Robbie Robertson's star on Canada's Walk of Fame

In 1989, the Band was inducted into the Canadian Juno Hall of Fame. In 1994, The Band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.[183] In 1997, Robertson received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Songwriters. At the 2003 commencement ceremonies at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, Robertson delivered an address to the graduating class and was awarded an honorary degree by the university. In 2003, Robertson received the Indspire Aboriginal Lifetime Achievement Award.[184] In 2003, Robertson was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame.[185]

In 2005, Robertson received an honorary doctorate from York University.[186] In 2006, he received the Governor General's Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement, Canada's highest honour in the performing arts.[187] In 2008, Robertson and the Band received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.[183] In 2011, Robertson was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame.[188] On May 27, 2011, Robertson was made an Officer of the Order of Canada by Governor General David Johnston.[189][190] In 2014, the Band was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame.[183]

On October 14, 2017, Robertson received the first Lifetime Achievement Award from the community of Six Nations.[191] In 2019, Robertson was given a key to the city of Toronto by Mayor John Tory during a TIFF press conference for Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band, a documentary about Robertson.[192][193] In 2019, Robertson was the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award in the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame from Canadian Music Week (CMW).[194]

Year Association Category Project Result Ref.
1989 Grammy Awards Best Rock Vocal Performance, Male Robbie Robertson Nominated
1992 Best Rock Vocal Performance, Solo Storyville Nominated
1995 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Individual Achievement - Cultural Programming Robbie Robertson: Going Home Nominated
Outstanding Music and Lyrics ("Pray") Nominated
1999 Grammy Awards Best World Music Album Contact from the Underworld of Redboy Nominated
2004 Best Soundtrack for Visual Media Gangs of New York Nominated
2015 Best Soundtrack for Visual Media The Wolf of Wall Street Nominated
2019 Critics' Choice Movie Awards Best Original Score The Irishman Nominated
2023 Hollywood Music in Media Awards Best Original Score in a Feature Film Killers of the Flower Moon Won
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Awards Best Score Nominated
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards Best Original Score Won
Dallas–Fort Worth Film Critics Association Awards Best Musical Score Won
St. Louis Film Critics Association Awards Best Score Runner-up
Golden Globe Awards Best Original Score Nominated
Critics' Choice Movie Awards Best Original Score Nominated
Academy Awards Best Original Score Pending


Robertson co-authored Legends, Icons and Rebels: Music That Changed the World with his son, Sebastian Robertson, and colleagues Jim Guerinot and Jared Levine.[book 1] He also wrote Hiawatha and the Peacemaker, illustrated by David Shannon.[book 2] His autobiography, Testimony, written over the course of five years, was published by Crown Archetype in November 2016.[book 3]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Robertson, Sebastian (2014). Rock and Roll Highway: The Robbie Robertson Story. New York: Henry Holt and Co. ISBN 978-0-8050-9473-2.
  2. ^ Six Nations Band Council. "Life Time Achievement Award" (PDF). Six Nations of The Grand River, Ontario, Canada: Six Nations Band Council. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 16, 2017. Retrieved October 14, 2017.
  3. ^ "The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time". Rolling Stone. November 23, 2011. Archived from the original on December 30, 2015. Retrieved December 30, 2015.
  4. ^ Warner/Chappell. "Robbie Robertson: Our Artists and Producers". Retrieved April 27, 2017.
  5. ^ "At 67, Robbie Robertson has nothing left to prove". Globe and Mail. Toronto. April 1, 2011.
  6. ^ Robertson, Robbie (2017). Testimony. Vintage Canada. p. 25. ISBN 9780307401403.
  7. ^ Grant, Sarah (December 4, 2015). "Robbie Robertson Talks Native American Heritage, New Children's Book". Rolling Stone. Retrieved September 20, 2017.
  8. ^ Robertson, Robbie (2017). Testimony. Vintage Canada. p. 27. ISBN 9780307401403.
  9. ^ Schneider, Jason (2009). Whispering Pines: The Northern Roots of American Music From Hank Snow to The Band. Toronto: ECW Press. ISBN 978-1550228748. Retrieved February 18, 2016.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Helm, Levon; Davis, Stephen (1993). This Wheel's On Fire: Levon Helm and The Story of The Band (first ed.). New York: William Morrow & Company, Inc. ISBN 0688109063.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Schneider, Jason (2009). Whispering Pines: The Northern Roots of American Music from Hank Snow to The Band. Toronto: ECW Press. ISBN 978-1550228748. Retrieved February 18, 2016.
  12. ^ Helm, Levon; Davis, Stephen (1993). This Wheel's on Fire: Levon Helm and the Story of The Band (first ed.). New York: William Morrow. ISBN 0688109063.
  13. ^ "Bill Flanagan: The Return of Robbie Robertson". Retrieved August 29, 2023.
  14. ^ "Hebrew Basic Burial". Retrieved August 29, 2023.
  15. ^ "The Secret Jewish History of Robbie Robertson and The Band". The Forward. November 23, 2016. Retrieved August 29, 2023.
  16. ^ Robertson, Robbie (2017). Testimony. Vintage Canada. pp. 60–62. ISBN 9780307401403.
  17. ^ a b c d Bowman, Rob (2015). Robbie Robertson And Alex North: Carny OST CD reissue liner notes. Orange, CA: Real Gone Music/Warner Brothers Records.
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah Hoskyns, Barney (1993). Across The Great Divide: The Band and America (first paperback ed.). New York: Hyperion. ISBN 0786880279.
  19. ^ For Robbie's early-band chronology, see Chapter two "Who Do You Love: Ronnie Hawkins & The Hawks" in Jason Schneider's book Whispering Pines: The Northern Roots of American Music... From Hank Snow to The Band, ECW Press Toronto ISBN 9781550228748 2009 First Edition hardcover
  20. ^ Caffin, Carol (April 15, 2007). "Ronnie Hawkins Talks About "The Boys" – Then and Now". BandBites. Vol. I, no. 5. Retrieved February 21, 2016.
  21. ^ a b Rockington, Graham (January 31, 2014). "Professor Piano moves to the Hammer". Hamilton Spectator. Neil Oliver. Metroland Media Group. Retrieved February 21, 2016.
  22. ^ Howard Sounes. Down the Highway: The Life Of Bob Dylan Doubleday (2001), pg. 189; ISBN 0-552-99929-6
  23. ^ a b How to Play Guitar Like The Band's Robbie Robertson, Aug 26, 2011; accessed September 2, 2017.
  24. ^ Minturn, Neil (2005). Budds, Michael J. (ed.). The Last Waltz of The Band. Hillsdale, New York: Pendragon Press. pp. 200–201. ISBN 1576470938. Retrieved February 21, 2016.
  25. ^ a b "Jerry "Ish" Penfound". The Band Website. Jan Hoiberg. Retrieved February 21, 2016.
  26. ^ "Bruce Bruno". The Band Website. Jan Hoiberg. Retrieved February 21, 2016.
  27. ^ "Ronnie Hawkins Discography". Hawkstone Enterprises. Archived from the original on December 1, 2014. Retrieved February 21, 2016.
  28. ^ Bowman, Rob. "The History of The Band: The Pre-Band Groups". The Band Website. Jan Hoiberg. Retrieved February 14, 2016.
  29. ^ "1965: From Conway Twitty to Bob Dylan". Tony Mart Official Website. Archived from the original on January 14, 2016. Retrieved February 28, 2016.
  30. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Bowman, Rob (2005). The Band: A Musical History box set accompanying hardcover book. Los Angeles: Capitol Records.
  31. ^ Laskow, Michael (July 2007). "Robbie Robertson on Bob Dylan and Songwriting: Second in a Three-Part Series". Taxi Transmitter. Retrieved February 28, 2016.
  32. ^ a b c Bowman, Rob. "The History of The Band: Playing With Bob Dylan". The Band Website. Jan Hoiberg. Retrieved February 14, 2016.
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Further reading

  1. ^ Robertson, Robbie; Guerinot, Jim; Levine, Jared; Robertson, Sebastian (2013). Legends, Icons & Rebels: Music That Changed the World. Tundra Books. ISBN 978-1770495715.
  2. ^ Robertson, Robbie (2015). Hiawatha and the Peacemaker. David Shannon (illustrator). Abrams Books for Young Readers. ISBN 978-1419712203.
  3. ^ Robertson, Robbie (2016). Testimony. Crown Archetype. ISBN 978-0307889782.