Robbie Robertson, The Band frontman, dies aged 80

Robertson penned hits such as ‘The Weight,’ ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down’ and ‘Up on Cripple Creek’

Tom Murray
Thursday 10 August 2023 05:25 BST

Robbie Robertson, guitarist and member of The Band, dead at 80

Musician and singer Robbie Robertson has died aged 80.

The Canadian artist was best known for fronting The Band, penning the Americana band’s biggest hits including “The Weight”, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” and “Up on Cripple Creek.”

Robertson died on Wednesday (9 August) in Los Angeles after a long illness, his management told The Independent.

In a statement, Robertson’s longtime manager Jared Levine, said: “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 the building of their new cultural centre.”

Throughout his career, Robertson worked extensively with director Scorsese beginning with The Last Waltz, a 1978 rockumentary about The Band’s farewell concert.

Robertson then continued to collaborate with Scorsese on the soundtracks for his films including Raging Bull (1980), Casino (1995), The Departed (2006), The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) and The Irishman (2019).

Martin Scorsese, left, and Robbie Robertson before they presented ‘The Last Waltz’ at the 31st Cannes International Film Festival

Robertson was born in 1943 in Toronto, Canada and grew up visiting reservations with his mother who was Native American.

In 1960 at the age of 16, he joined drummer Levon Helm in the Hawks, the backing band for rockabilly star Ronnie Hawkins.

After leaving Hawkins in 1964, the Hawks evolved into The Band, releasing their seminal, debut album Music from Big Pink in 1968.

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In 1994, The Band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and performed live at the ceremony. Robertson continued to work on solo music projects, collaborating extensively with Eric Clapton, alongside his soundtracks for film and television.

In his final interview published two weeks before his death, Robertson spoke to Variety about his work on Killers of the Flower Moon.

“When the Killers of the Flower Moon idea was stirring around and it looked like it could happen, for Marty and me, every once in a while we would be like, ‘Isn’t this amazing, that it’s come to this, that we actually have a story and we have this thing that we’re both in our own way attached to somehow,’” he said.

“Marty and I are both 80 years old, and we’re getting to do a Western, we’re getting to do a movie about Indians, in our own way.”

“There’s a particular enjoyment in that: ‘Let’s tackle this baby and try to do something magnificent.’ Whenever you’re going into a project, you want to shoot high and, and you want to do some really good work. But on something like this, where its soul is in Indian country – for me, you couldn’t have made something like this up.”

Of his 40-plus year relationship with Scorsese, Robertson said, “We’re in awe ourselves that our brotherhood has outlasted everything. We’ve been through it; we’ve been there and back. I am so proud of our friendship and our work. It’s been just a gift in life.”

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