Robbie Robertson

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For other people named Robbie Robertson, see Robbie Robertson (disambiguation).
Jaime Royal "Robbie" Robertson
Robertson performing at the Crossroads Guitar Festival in 2007
Background information
Birth name Jaime Royal Robertson[1]
Born (1943-07-05) July 5, 1943 (age 72)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Origin Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Genres Rock, country rock, rhythm and blues
Occupation(s) Musician, songwriter, producer, creative executive, actor
Instruments Guitar, vocals, piano, bass, harmonica, autoharp, melodica
Years active 1958–present
Labels Capitol, Geffen, Warner, 429
Associated acts The Band, Ronnie Hawkins & the Hawks, Bob Dylan, John Hammond Jr., Eric Clapton
Notable instruments
Fender Stratocaster
Fender Telecaster
Martin Signature Workhouse
Epiphone Howard Roberts

Jaime Royal "Robbie" Robertson, OC (born July 5, 1943),[1][2] is a Canadian singer-songwriter and guitarist best known for his work as lead guitarist and primary songwriter for The Band.[3] As a songwriter, he is credited for "The Weight", "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down", "Up on Cripple Creek", "Broken Arrow", "Somewhere Down the Crazy River", and many others. He has been inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame[4] and was ranked 59th in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 100 greatest guitarists.[5]

Life and career[edit]

Early life[edit]

Robertson, whose full name is Jaime Royal Robertson, was born on July 5, 1943. He was an only child. His mother was Rose Marie Chrysler, a full blooded Mohawk[1]:6 who was raised on the Six Nations Reserve southwest of Toronto, Ontario. Chrysler lived with an aunt in the Cabbagetown neighborhood,[6]:17 and worked at a jewelry plating factory. Robertson's biological father was a Jewish professional gambler named Alexander David Klegerman. Klegerman was killed in a hit and run accident while changing a tire on Queen Elizabeth Way; this incident occurred while Robertson was still an infant.

Robertson's mother married co-worker James Patrick Robertson, who adopted Robertson as his own. Robertson's parents continued to work at the jewelry plating factory where they met, and lived in several homes in different Toronto neighborhoods while Robertson was a child.[7]:55[8]:65 Robertson received his name "Robbie" from teachers and students at school, who started calling him "Robbie" in reference to his last name.[1]:6

During the summer, Robertson's mother would take her son to the Six Nations Reserve to acquaint him with her family. It was here that Robertson was mentored in playing guitar by other family members, in particular his older cousin Herb Myke, who entertained the family by playing country music songs by Hank Williams and others. When Robertson was ten, his mother took him to a local guitar teacher who played Hawaiian style lap slide guitar. This guitar style did not set well with Robertson, and forced him to wait until summers to learn the standard guitar style from his family on the reserve. Robertson became a fan of rock n' roll and blues through the radio, listening to disc jockey George "Hound Dog" Lorenz play rock n' roll on WKBW in Buffalo, New York, and staying up at night to listen to disc jockey John R.'s all-night blues show on Nashville, Tennessee-based clear-channel station WLAC.[7]:56[8]:65–66

When Robertson was fourteen and fifteen, he worked two brief summer jobs in the traveling carnival circuit, the first being for a few days in a suburb of Toronto, and the second being a three-week job for the Canadian National Exhibition. In the latter he worked as an assistant at a freak show. These two experiences would impact Robertson's view of Americana, influencing The Band song "Life is a Carnival" and the movie Carny (1980), which he would later produce and appear in as lead actor.[9]

Robertson began playing in bands in 1957, working initially with Little Caesar and the Consuls before leaving to start his own band with his friend Pete "Thumper" Traynor, who would later found Traynor Amplifiers. Robertson's first band with Traynor was called Robbie and the Rhythm Chords, who became Robbie and the Robots after they saw the film Forbidden Planet and took a liking to the film's character Robby the Robot. Traynor customized Robert's guitar for The Robots, fitting it with antennae and wires to give it a space age look. After Robbie and The Robots, Robertson also played in the Traynor-led combo Thumper and the Trambones, whose name changed to The Suedes, at which time they hired pianist Scott Cushnie.[7]:56–57[8]:66[10]:15

With Ronnie Hawkins and The Hawks[edit]

Robertson became a fan of the Arkansas-based rockabilly group Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks from attending their shows at the Toronto club Le Coq D'Or.[10]:40–41 Hawkins' band split its time between performing in the Southeastern United States and performing in Eastern Canada, having found a lucrative market in the Canadian club scene.[8]:70–71 Robertson's band The Suedes opened up for Hawkins at Dixie Arena, and Ronnie Hawkins guested on vocals with the group on a couple of songs in their set. In time, Hawkins took a liking to Robertson, and brought him on as roadie and errand runner for The Hawks.[11] Hawkins initially flew Robertson to the Brill Building in New York City to help him choose songs for his album Mr. Dynamo (1959), and recorded two songs co-credited to Robertson, "Hey Baba Lou" and "Someone Like You".[1]:14–15[8]:66–67[10]:45–46

Hawkins hired Cushnie away from The Suedes, and took him on tour with Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks in Arkansas. When The Hawks' then-current bass player was fired from the group for theft, Cushnie recommended that Hawkins hire Robertson to replace him on bass.[10]:49, 51–52[12] Hawkins invited Robertson to come to Arkansas, the Hawks flew to the UK to perform on television there, and left Robertson in a nearby town to practice to see if he would make the cut. Upon returning, they were amazed at his progress and hired him to play bass. Cushnie would leave the band a few months after joining them,[12] and Robertson soon switched over from bass to playing lead guitar for The Hawks.[1]:20–22[8]:68–70, 75

Future The Band member Levon Helm was already a member of The Hawks, and soon became close friends with Robertson.[8]: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.[13] This lineup, who later became The Band, toured with Hawkins throughout 1962 and into 1963.[8]:95, 100 They also hired saxophone player Jerry "Ish" Penfound and later Bruce Bruno, who were both with the group in their intermediary period as Levon and the Hawks.[14][15]

Ronnie Hawkins was signed to Roulette Records in early 1959,[6]:20 and Robbie Robertson played on a number of Hawkins' Roulette Records recordings. Robertson played on an April 28, 1960 Roulette Records session that ended up as part of the Ronnie Hawkins album The Folk Ballads of Ronnie Hawkins (1960).[16] Ronnie Hawkins and The Hawks cut sessions for Roulette Records throughout 1961-1963, all of which Robertson appeared on. Many of these tracks were released on The Best of Ronnie Hawkins (Roulette SR 25255) and the Canadian-only Mojo Man (Roulette SR 25390); both albums were released in 1964. The sessions also yielded 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).[10]:420[17]

Intermediary Period with Levon and The Hawks[edit]

The Hawks left Ronnie Hawkins at the beginning of 1964 to go on their own,[18] The members of The Hawks were losing interest in playing in the rockabilly style in favor of playing blues and soul music. They were also taking an increasingly more democratic approach to performing, which they developed as they performed shows in Hawkins' absence while he tended to issues with his family and home life.[8]:100–102[10]:76

In early 1964, the band approached agent Harold Kudlets about representing them, which he agreed to do, booking them a years' worth of shows in the same circuits as they had been in before. Originally dubbed The Levon Helm Sextet, the band included all of the future members of The Band, plus Jerry "Ish" Penfound on saxophone and Bob Bruno on vocals.[8]:105–106 Bruno left in May 1964, and at that time the group changed their name to Levon and the Hawks. Penfound stayed with the group until 1965.[14] Kudlets kept the band 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 in 1965,[7]:64–66, 68 where they played six nights a week alongside Conway Twitty and other acts.[19]

In early 1964, the band befriended blues artist John P. Hammond while he was performing in Toronto,[10]:84–85 and later in the year agreed to work on his album So Many Roads (released in 1965) at the same time that they were playing The Peppermint Lounge in New York City.[7]:65 Robertson played guitar throughout the album, and was billed "Jaime R. Robertson" in the album's credits. This was Levon and the Hawks' first studio appearance after leaving Ronnie Hawkins.[8]: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[7]:66 and released on Apex Records in the United States and on Ware Records in Canada.[20]:95 As Levon and The Hawks, the band cut an afternoon session for Atco Records later in 1965,[10]:81 which yielded two singles, "The Stones That 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).[10]:420 Robertson also wrote all three of the tracks on Levon and the Hawks' Atco singles.[20]:95[21][22]

With Bob Dylan and the Hawks[edit]

1965-1966 World Tour[edit]

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 Grosscourt Management, the company owned by artist manager Albert Grossman, requesting his services backing Bob Dylan for a set of upcoming concerts.[20]:21[23] The band had been recommended to Grossman and to Dylan by Mary Martin, Grossman's assistant secretary, who was originally from Toronto and was a friend of the band.[7]:68–69[24] Dylan was also aware of the group through his friend John P. Hammond,[7]:69 whose blues/rock hybrid album So Many Roads members of the Hawks had performed on.

Dylan first performed with a rock band at a controversial performance at the Newport Folk Festival on July 28, 1965, which was met with a mixed but largely hostile response. Dylan was intent on continuing to perform in the rock music style regardless,[10]:91–93 and manager Albert Grossman lined up a world tour that was intended to take him through the following year.[8]:132

Robertson agreed to meet with Dylan. Initially, Dylan intended to just hire Robertson as the guitarist for his backup group. Robertson refused the offer, but did agree to play two shows with Dylan, one at the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium in Forest Hills, Queens on August 28, and one at The Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles on September 3. Robertson was not fond of the drummer Dylan was using at the time, and suggested that they use Levon Helm instead.[25]:5

Robertson and Helm performed in Dylan's backup 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 favorably.[7]:70 Dylan was happy with the results and wanted to keep this lineup of the group together, so Grossman's company connected with Levon and the Hawks' road manager to request Robertson's and Helm's services for the rest of the tour. The band met with Grossman, who agreed to hire the full band, and Dylan flew up to Toronto and rehearsed with them September 15–17 as Levon and the Hawks finished an engagement at Friar's Tavern that they were contracted for.[10]:96–99

Bob Dylan and the Hawks were scheduled to tour the United States throughout October–December 1965,[26]:8–9 with each show consisting of two sets: an acoustic show just featuring Dylan on guitar and harmonica, and an electric set featuring Dylan backed by the Hawks. The shows in California and the Southern United States were received favorably overall, but the shows in the Northeastern United States were largely met with a hostile reaction from fans who knew Dylan as a prominent figure in the American folk music revival, perceiving his move into rock music as a betrayal of the movement's ideals and musical standards. Levon Helm left the group after their November 28 performance in Washington, DC. Session drummer Bobby Gregg replaced Helm for the December dates, and Sandy Kirnikoff was brought in to replace Gregg in January 1966.[10]:105, 109

Robertson was initially unhappy with the band's sound, but felt that the band were onto something and was happy with the progress as the tour went on.[24] "When we were playing, and people were booing, when we'd finish, we'd go back to the hotel, and listen to a tape of sounded quite good, very powerful and dynamic, the songs sounded strong, and the arrangements were really starting to become tight and good. There was a spontaneous quality to them. We got very proud of what we were doing."[25]:6 Dylan and Robertson would often play guitar together during down time on the tour.[23]

Bob Dylan and the Hawks played more dates in the continental United States in February–March 1966 of the 1966 world tour, and then played Hawaii, Australia, Europe, The United Kingdom, and Ireland from April 9-May 27. Drummer Sandy Kirkinoff left after the Pacific Northwest dates in March,[7]: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, and the May 17 Manchester Free Trade Hall show, best known for an angry audience member audibly yelling "Judas!" at Dylan, became a frequently-bootlegged live show from the tour;[27]:73–76 it was eventually released officially as The Bootleg Series Vol. 4: Bob Dylan Live 1966, The "Royal Albert Hall" Concert.[28]:4 The European leg of the tour was filmed by documentary filmmaker D. A. Pennebaker, and the footage was edited into the documentary Eat the Document, which was completed in 1968 and premiered at the New York Academy Of Music in 1971.[28] Robertson can be seen throughout the film.

On 30 November 1965, Dylan cut a studio session with members of The Hawks,[29] which yielded the non-LP single "Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?"[30] Dylan attempted to record sessions with members of The Hawks in late January and early February 1966 for the upcoming Blonde on Blonde album; Robertson appears in all of these sessions. Dylan then completed the album in Nashville in mid-February, employing Robertson for one of these sessions, which took place on 14 February.[31] Robertson is credited as appearing on the Blonde on Blonde album as "Jaime Robertson".[32]

The "Basement Tapes" Period[edit]

On July 29, 1966, Dylan allegedly sustained an injured neck from a motorcycle accident (although there is debate as to the nature of the accident or even whether the accident actually happened), and retreated to a quiet domestic life with his new wife and child in upstate New York.[33]:216–219 The members of The Hawks were living at the Hotel Chelsea in New York City at the time,[33]:220 and were kept on a weekly retainer by Dylan's management.[24]

In February 1967, Dylan invited the members of the band to come up to Woodstock, New York, where his home was located, initially with the idea of having them help him work on the film that would become Eat the Document.[24] Robertson had met a French-Canadian girl on the Paris stop of Dylan's 1966 world tour,[34] and the two moved into a house on Dylan manager Albert Grossman's estate in the Woodstock area.[10]:135 The remaining three members of the Hawks rented a house near West Saugerties, New York that would later be dubbed "Big Pink" because of its painted pink exterior.[33]:220–221

Just after the members of The Hawks had rented the "Big Pink" house, Robertson met with a friend with knowledge of acoustics and recording equipment to have him examine the basement/garage of the "Big Pink" house to see if it would be conducive for a simple recording set up that they had planned out so the Hawks could start making home recordings. Although the friend advised against it, the band set up the makeshift studio anyway. According to Robertson, sometime after the alleged accident, Dylan came by the "Big Pink" house, loved their makeshift recording setup, and informed the band that he needed to create songs for his publishing company to shop to other artists to record.[35] Dylan and the members of The Hawks ended up working 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 studio.[10]:137 The recordings were made between the late spring and autumn of 1967.[36] Previous Hawks member Levon Helm returned to the group in August 1967.[20]:27

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".[36][37] 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[27]:42–46 and helped to launch the bootleg recording industry.[38] In 1975, Robertson would produce an official compilation entitled 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.[36]

In 1968, The Hawks backed Tiny Tim in four performances that appeared in the psychedelic counter culture film You Are What You Eat. Two songs, "Be My Baby" and "I Got You Babe" (the latter a duet with Eleanor Baruchian of 60's girl group The Cake), also appear in the film's soundtrack album; another two, "Sonny Boy" and "Memphis, Tennessee" appear only in the film itself. [39] Robertson is listed in the movie's end credits as "Robie Robertson".[40]

With The Band[edit]

See also: The Band

1967-1969 (Music From Big Pink and The Band)[edit]

In late 1967, Dylan had to break away from the members of The Hawks to record his next album, John Wesley Harding (1967). After recording the basic tracks, Dylan contacted Robertson and Hawks member Garth Hudson about playing on the album to fill out the sound. However, when Robertson heard the tracks, he liked the starkness of the sound and recommended that Dylan leave the songs as they were.[10]:147-148 A dispute between Albert Grossman and Dylan led to Dylan severing ties with Grossman. [10]:161 Dylan worked with the members of the Hawks once again when they appeared as his backup band at a series of two Woody Guthrie memorial concerts at Carnegie Hall in New York City on January 1968.[20]:29

The members of The Hawks continued to remain under contract to Grossman.[41] Over the course of the "Basement Tapes" period, the group had found a voice of their own, and Grossman went to Los Angeles to shop the band to a major label, securing a contract with Capitol Records.[20]:22, 28 The group went to New York to begin recording songs with producer John Simon. Capitol was happy with the results of the sessions, and brought the group to Los Angeles to finish the album.[41] The resulting album, entitled Music From Big Pink and named after their home,[42] was released in August 1968.[43] Robertson wrote four of the songs on the album, including "The Weight", "Chest Fever", "Caledonia Mission," and "To Kingdom Come", and is listed in the songwriting credits as "J.R. Robertson".[44] Robertson also sang lead vocals on the track "To Kingdom Come"; he would not sing on a Band song again until "Knockin' Lost John" on 1977's Islands.[10]:158[41]

At the time, the members of The Hawks were not using any particular name, but were known informally to Dylan and to those who knew them as "the band".[1]:30 The group insisted that they be called "The Crackers" when they signed their contract with Capitol,[10]:144 and had at one point considered using the name "The Honkies" as well.[41] But when Music From Big Pink came out, it was released with no name listed on the album cover, but with their informal name of "The Band" listed on the album's spine.[10]:162

When Music from Big Pink was released, The Band initially avoided media attention, and discouraged Capitol Records from any outright promotional efforts. They also did not immediately pursue touring to support the album, and declined to be interviewed for a year.[20]:38 The resulting mystery surrounding the group made them a fascination with the underground press,[41] and they received further word-of-mouth promotion due in part to Bob Dylan's rumored involvement.[42] Music from Big Pink received excellent reviews, and the album became a favorite of many famous musicians of the period. Meanwhile, "The Weight" reached #21 on the British charts,[10]:168–173 and numerous underground FM radio stations in the United States began to play the song regularly.[20]:32

In the late winter of 1969, Robertson and Music From Big Pink producer John Simon flew to Hawaii to plan the sessions for their second album. Initial attempts to record in the studio were unsuccessful, so the group rented a home owned by Sammy Davis Jr. in Hollywood Hills and converted the pool house behind it into a studio to recreate the "clubhouse" atmosphere that they had enjoyed at the "Big Pink" home previously. The band began recording every day in the pool house studio, working on a tight schedule to complete the album.[10]:176–178 An additional three tracks were recorded at The Hit Factory in New York in April 1969.[42]

On this second album, songwriting duties fell to Robertson, who would write or co-write every song on the album. Robertson did not sing on the album, opting instead to stand back and act as an informal musical director within the group.[10]:178 Robertson also did most of the audio engineering on the album.[20]:41

Outside of the studio, Robertson began to work as spokesman for the group, handling many of the group's interviews.[10]:175, 180 The Band began performing regularly in spring 1969, with their first live dates as The Band being at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco.[45] Their most notable performances that year were at the 1969 Woodstock Festival and the UK Isle of Wight Festival with Bob Dylan in August.[10]:201–245 In July 1969, "The Weight" was featured in the movie Easy Rider, which became a runaway success.[46]

The Band's album The Band was released on September 1969, and became a critical and commercial success, receiving almost universal critical praise and coming in at #9 on the US pop charts and staying in the Top 40 for 24 weeks.[47] The track "Up On Cripple Creek" was released as a single; it peaked at #25 in late 1969 and would be their only Top 30 hit in the United States.[48] The album was instrumental in the creation of the Americana genre.[42]

On November 2, 1969, The Band appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, one of only two television appearances they would make.[20]:45

1970-1973 (Stage Fright through Moondog Matinee)[edit]

On January 12, 1970, The Band was featured on the cover of Time magazine.[49] This was the very first time a North American rock band would be featured on the cover of the magazine.[50]

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.[10]:235–236 The album was recorded on a mobile unit purchased by their management,[20]:48 and Robertson brought in Todd Rundgren to engineer the album. The album was recorded in two weeks' time.[51] These sessions became their third album, Stage Fright, which would become The Band's highest charting album under their own name, peaking at #5 on September 5 and staying in the Billboard Top 40 for 14 weeks.[47]

Robertson moved to Montreal in August 1970 and began splitting his time between Woodstock and Montreal. Robertson was suffering from a lack of inspiration to write, and found it difficult to get the group working as a unit as it had before. The other members of the group, Garth Hudson, in particular, also felt that Robertson's songwriting was getting too complex and difficult. They were able to complete their next album, Cahoots, at Albert Grossman's newly built Bearsville Studios and release it in October 1971, but it fared worse than the previous albums, receiving mixed reviews and peaking at #24 on the Billboard charts,[20]:54–58 only remaining in the Billboard Top 40 for five weeks.[47]

Robertson performing with the Band

The Band continued to tour throughout 1970 and 1971.[45] A live album recorded at a series of shows at the Academy of Music in New York City between December 28 and December 31, 1971[45] was released in 1972 as Rock Of Ages.[52] The album peaked at #6 and remained in the Top 40 for 14 weeks.[47] After the Academy of Music shows, The Band again retreated from playing shows for the entirety of 1972, finally returning to the stage on July 28, 1973, at the sold-out festival Summer Jam at Watkins Glen;[45] a recording of this show was released posthumously by Capitol Records as the album Live at Watkins Glen in 1994.[53] In October 1973 they released an album of cover songs entitled Moondog Matinee,[20]:69[52] which peaked at #28 on the Billboard charts.[47]

Around the time of the recording of Moondog Matinee, Robertson began working on an ambitious project called Works that was never finished or released. One lyric from the Works project, "Lay a flower in the snow," was used in "Fallen Angel", Robertson's tribute to Richard Manuel after his 1986 suicide, which appeared on Robertson's 1987 self-titled solo album.[52]

1974 Reunion with Bob Dylan (Planet Waves and Before the Flood)[edit]

By early 1973, Bob Dylan had relocated from Woodstock, New York to Malibu, California, and encouraged Robertson to do so as well. Robertson was becoming disenchanted with what Woodstock was becoming in the wake of the Woodstock Festival and its popularity as a counter-culture destination, and was fascinated with the idea of living by the sea, so he also relocated to Malibu in the summer of 1973. By October 1973 the rest of the members of The Band had also relocated to Malibu. David Geffen had signed Dylan to Asylum Records, and worked with promoter Bill Graham on the idea of a tour reuniting Dylan with The Band. It would be the first tour Dylan had been on in 7 1/2 years. Graham initially devised the idea for a 12 to 13 week tour, but finally decided on 29 markets and 40 tour slots where he thought the concerts would do well. Dylan said yes to every one of the forty proposed tour slots, and he, Geffen, Graham, and The Band began preparations for the tour.

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.[10]:284–286[20]:70

Amongst the rehearsals and preparations, The Band went into the studio with Bob Dylan to record a new album for Asylum Records that would become the Bob Dylan album Planet Waves (1974). Sessions took place at Village Recorder in Santa Monica, California, on November 2, 5, 6, 8, and 14 of 1973.[54] Planet Waves was released on February 9, 1974, and was #1 on the Billboard Top Forty for four weeks, spending 12 weeks total in the top 40.[47] It was Bob Dylan's first #1 album,[55] and the first and only time Bob Dylan and The Band recorded a studio album together.[10]:287

The 1974 tour began at the Chicago Stadium in Chicago, Illinois, on January 3, 1974, and ended at The Forum in Inglewood, California on February 14.[56] 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 setlist.[57] According to the tour's sound engineer Rob Fraboni, the first show in Chicago was somewhat haphazard in its layout, so Fraboni suggested a layout where, "The Band should open the show, then Bob should do a set with The Band. Then, intermission, next Bob alone for 3 songs. Then, The Band should come out and join him and they should play together another set and the show is over." The group tried this layout the next evening, it worked well, and they continued to use this template through the remainder of the tour.[58] 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 a mere nine years previously.[10]:291 The audience response to the tour was overwhelmingly positive, with Fraboni calling it an "outpouring of love" the likes of which he had never seen before.[58]

The final three shows of the tour at The Forum in Inglewood, California were recorded and assembled into the double album Before the Flood.[56] 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.[47]

The Last Waltz[edit]

In 1976, at the urging of Robertson, the Band decided to cease touring;[59] they gave their final concert in November of that year. Martin Scorsese captured the event on film, released in 1978 as The Last Waltz. The concert featured the Band's friends and influences: Ronnie Hawkins, Muddy Waters, Paul Butterfield, Dr. John, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, Neil Diamond, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Emmylou Harris, Ron Wood, and Ringo Starr, among others. Since Robertson was the only one in the group who had seriously wanted to stop touring, the Band resumed touring in 1983 with a succession of musicians filling his place.

In his 1993 autobiography, This Wheel's on Fire: Levon Helm and the Story of the Band, Helm blamed Robertson for the Band's breakup. Helm made several accusations against Robertson, such as conspiring with record companies to steal songwriting credits from other members of the Band,[60] arranging the group's breakup as a part of a private agenda, and conspiring with Last Waltz director Martin Scorsese (a personal friend of Robertson's) to make Robertson appear to be the leader and most important member of the group. Robertson disputes that he was the sole decider of the Band's breakup, saying it was nobody's plan and everybody's decision.[61]

Early solo career[edit]

Martin Scorsese was hired to direct The Last Waltz on the basis of his use of music in Mean Streets. Robertson and Scorsese were housemates during the editing of The Last Waltz and became friends. Robertson went on to compose the musical score for Scorsese's 1980 film Raging Bull, and since then the two have been frequent collaborators. Robertson worked on Scorsese's movies The King of Comedy, The Color of Money, Casino, The Departed, and Gangs of New York, and he provided music supervision for Shutter Island, The Wolf of Wall Street, and Silence (in preproduction as of 2015).

Robertson produced Neil Diamond's albums Beautiful Noise in 1976 and Love at the Greek (live) in 1977.[2]

Between 1979 and 1980 Robertson co-starred with Gary Busey and Jodie Foster in Carny. He also co-wrote, produced, and composed source music for the film. For Scorsese's Raging Bull, Robertson created background music and produced source music.[2]

For another Scorsese film, The King of Comedy (released in 1983), Robertson served as music producer and also contributed with his first post-Band solo recording, "Between Trains." Additionally, he produced and played guitar on Van Morrison's song "Wonderful Remark".[2] Robertson signed via A&R executive Gary Gersh for his debut solo album on Geffen Records. Robertson recorded with producer (and fellow Canadian) Daniel Lanois.[2] He also scored Scorsese's The Color of Money (1986), working with Gil Evans and Willie Dixon, and co-wrote "It's in the Way That You Use It" with Eric Clapton.[2]

Robertson was enlisted as creative consultant for Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll (1987), Taylor Hackford's film saluting Chuck Berry, wherein he interviewed Chuck Berry and played guitar while Berry recited some poetry.

Solo albums[edit]

From 1987 onwards, Robertson has released five solo albums. The first was self-titled followed by Storyville, Music for the Native Americans and Contact from the Underworld of Redboy. In 1990, he contributed to Japanese musician Ryuichi Sakamoto's album Beauty. Robertson's song "Broken Arrow", from the Robbie Robertson album, was recorded by Rod Stewart on his album Vagabond Heart and became a hit single. "Broken Arrow" was also a part of the Grateful Dead's rotation of live songs in 1993–95 (sung by bassist Phil Lesh) and later was performed by Phil Lesh and Friends. The song "Somewhere down the Crazy River" became Robertson's biggest solo hit.

In 1994, Robertson returned to his roots, forming a Native American group the Red Road Ensemble for Music for the Native Americans, a collection of songs that accompanied a television documentary series.

How To Become Clairvoyant was released on April 5, 2011, and is the fifth solo release from Robertson. It features Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, Trent Reznor, Tom Morello, Robert Randolph, Rocco Deluca, Angela McCluskey, and Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes. Pino Palladino and Ian Thomas are the rhythm section. Robbie performed "He Don't Live Here No More" on CBS's Late Show with David Letterman and ABC's The View in support of the album, with the band Dawes and solo artist Jonathan Wilson. The album was also released in a deluxe edition containing five bonus tracks (four demos and the exclusive track "Houdini", named after the magician Harry Houdini).

Later career[edit]

Robertson during a March 2011 radio interview

In 1995, in Rome, Robertson headlined an annual Labour Day concert festival with supporting acts Andrea Bocelli, Elvis Costello, and Radiohead. 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 2000, David Geffen and Mo Ostin convinced Robertson to join DreamWorks Records as creative executive. Robertson, who persuaded Nelly Furtado to sign with the company, is 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. Robertson served as music supervisor on the Martin Scorsese film Gangs Of New York.

In 2004, Robertson contributed the song "Shine Your Light" to the Ladder 49 soundtrack.

In 2005, Robertson was executive producer of the definitive box set for The Band, entitled A Musical History.

In 2006, Robertson recorded with Jerry Lee Lewis and Samuel Bidleman on Last Man Standing on the track "Twilight", a Robertson composition. He also produced the soundtrack of the Scorsese film The Departed.

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 his version of Domino's "Goin' to the River".

Honors and Awards[edit]

In 1989, The Band was inducted into the Canadian Juno Hall of Fame.[62]

In 1994, The Band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.[62] Robertson joined Garth Hudson, Rick Danko and inductor Eric Clapton onstage to perform "The Weight" when the Band was inducted.

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.

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

In 2003, Robertson was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame.[63]

In 2006, Robinson received the Governor General's Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement, Canada's highest honour in the performing arts.[64]

In 2008, Robertson and The Band received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.[62]

On May 27, 2011, Robertson was made an Officer of the Order of Canada by Governor General David Johnston.[65][66]

In 2014, The Band was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame.[62]

Private life[edit]

In 1967, Robertson married Dominique Bourgeois, a Canadian journalist. They later divorced.[67] Together they have three children: daughters Alexandra and Delphine and son Sebastian.



  • What About Now (1991) [#4 CAN]
  • Go Back to Your Woods (1992) [#9 CAN]
  • Shake This Town (1992) [#20 CAN]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Robertson, Sebastian (2014). Rock and Roll Highway: The Robbie Robertson Story. New York: Henry Holt and Co. ISBN 978-0-8050-9473-2. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Robbie Robertson Biography". 
  3. ^ Ankeny, Jason. "The Band: Robbie Robertson". The Band. Retrieved October 3, 2009. 
  4. ^ Oliveira, Michael (February 8, 2011). "Robbie Robertson to be inducted into songwriters hall of fame". Toronto Star. Archived from the original on February 8, 2011. 
  5. ^ "The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time". Rolling Stone. November 23, 2011. Retrieved December 30, 2015. 
  6. ^ a b Flippo, Chet (1994). The Band: Across The Great Divide box set booklet. Los Angeles: Capitol Records. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Schneider, Jason (2009). Whispering Pines: The Northern Roots of American Music From Hank Snow to The Band. Toronto: ECW Press. ISBN 1550228749. Retrieved 18 February 2016. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l 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. 
  9. ^ Bowman, Rob (2015). Robbie Robertson And Alex North: Carny OST CD reissue liner notes. Orange, CA: Real Gone Music/Warner Brothers Records. 
  10. ^ 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 Hoskyns, Barney (1993). Across The Great Divide: The Band and America (first paperback ed.). New York: Hyperion. ISBN 0786880279. 
  11. ^ Caffin, Carol (15 April 2007). "Ronnie Hawkins Talks About "The Boys" – Then and Now". BandBites. Vol. I no. 5. Retrieved 21 February 2016. 
  12. ^ a b Rockington, Graham (31 January 2014). "Professor Piano moves to the Hammer". Hamilton Spectator (Neil Oliver). Metroland Media Group. Retrieved 21 February 2016. 
  13. ^ Minturn, Neil (2005). Budds, Michael J., ed. The Last Waltz of The Band. Hillsdale, New York: Pendragon Press. pp. 200–201. ISBN 1576470938. Retrieved 21 February 2016. 
  14. ^ a b "Jerry "Ish" Penfound". The Band Website. Jan Hoiberg. Retrieved 21 February 2016. 
  15. ^ "Bruce Bruno". The Band Website. Jan Hoiberg. Retrieved 21 February 2016. 
  16. ^ "Ronnie Hawkins: The Folk Ballads of Ronnie Hawkins". The Band Website. Jan Noiberg. Retrieved 21 February 2016. 
  17. ^ "Ronnie Hawkins Discography". Hawkstone Enterprises. Retrieved 21 February 2016. 
  18. ^ Bowman, Rob. "The History of The Band: The Pre-Band Groups". The Band Website. Jan Hoiberg. Retrieved 14 February 2016. 
  19. ^ "1965: From Conway Twitty to Bob Dylan". Tony Mart Official Website. Retrieved 28 February 2016. 
  20. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Bowman, Rob (2005). The Band: A Musical History box set accompanying hardcover book. Los Angeles: Capitol Records. 
  21. ^ "Levon And The Hawks – The Stones I Throw / He Don't Love You (And He'll Break Your Heart)". Retrieved 1 March 2016. 
  22. ^ "Levon And The Hawks – Go Go Liza Jane / He Don't Love You (And He'll Break Your Heart)". Retrieved 1 March 2016. 
  23. ^ a b Laskow, Michael (July 2007). "Robbie Robertson on Bob Dylan and Songwriting: Second in a Three-Part Series". Taxi Transmitter. Retrieved 28 February 2016. 
  24. ^ a b c d Bowman, Rob. "The History of The Band: Playing With Bob Dylan". The Band Website. Jan Hoiberg. Retrieved 14 February 2016. 
  25. ^ a b Kiersh, Edward (1986). Where Are You Now, Bo Diddley? The Artists Who Made Us Rock and Where They Are Now. Garden City: Doubleday and Company. ISBN 038519448X. 
  26. ^ Björner, Olof (2000). Something is Happening: Bob Dylan 1965 (PDF). Olaf Björner. Retrieved 1 March 2016. 
  27. ^ a b Heylin, Clinton (1995). Bootleg: The Secret History of the Other Recording Industry (PDF) (First ed.). New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0312142897. Retrieved 27 February 2016. 
  28. ^ a b Björner, Olof (2000). Skeleton Keys: Bob Dylan 1966 (PDF). Olaf Björner. Retrieved 1 March 2016. 
  29. ^ Björner, Olof. "Still On the Road: 1965 Concerts, Interviews, and Recording Sessions". Olof Björner. Retrieved 2 March 2016. 
  30. ^ "Bob Dylan – Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?". Retrieved 2 March 2016. 
  31. ^ Björner, Olof. "Still On the Road: 1966 Blonde on Blonde Recording Sessions and World Tour". Olof Björner. Retrieved 2 March 2016. 
  32. ^ "Bob Dylan – Blonde On Blonde". Retrieved 2 March 2016. 
  33. ^ a b c Sounces, Howard (2011). Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan (revised and updated ed.). New York: Grove Press. ISBN 0802145523. 
  34. ^ Goldberg, Michael (19 November 1987). "The Second Coming of Robbie Robertson". Rolling Stone (Wenner Media LLC). 
  35. ^ Robertson, Robbie (29 September 2011). Robbie Robertson Talks About Bob Dylan and the Basement Tapes. Interview with Elwood Blues. The Blues Mobile Video. Retrieved 27 February 2016. 
  36. ^ a b c Greene, Andy (26 August 2014). "Bob Dylan's Complete, Legendary 'Basement Tapes' Shall Be Released". Rolling Stone (Wenner Media LLC). 
  37. ^ Wenner, Jann S. (22 June 1968). "Dylan's Basement Tape Should Be Released". Rolling Stone (Wenner Media LLC). 
  38. ^ Klagg, James C. (2005). "Chapter 4: Great White Wonder: The Morality of Bootlegging Bob". In Vernezze, Peter; Porter, Carl. Bob Dylan And Philosophy. Peru, Illinois: Open Court Publishing Company. p. 40. ISBN 0812695925. 
  39. ^ Nesteroff, Kliph (April 29, 2007). "You Are What You Eat". WFMU's Beware of The Blog. WFMU. Retrieved 5 March 2016. 
  40. ^ García Albertos, Román. "You Are What You Eat". Information Is Not Knowledge. Román García Albertos. Retrieved 6 March 2016. 
  41. ^ a b c d e Bowman, Rob. "The History of The Band: The Debut Album". The Band Website. Jan Hoiberg. Retrieved 14 February 2016. 
  42. ^ a b c d Hoskyns, Barney. "Liner notes for The Band 2000 remasters". The Band Website. Jan Hoiberg. Retrieved 13 March 2016. 
  43. ^ Rucker, Leland. "Big Pink in Retrospect. How Songs Learn: "The Weight" Hangs Tough at 35". The Band Website. Jan Hoiberg. Retrieved 13 March 2016. 
  44. ^ "The Band - Music From Big Pink". Retrieved 13 March 2016. 
  45. ^ a b c d "Late Dec. 2013 Updated Concert List" (PDF). The Band Website. Jan Hoiberg. 31 Dec 2013. Retrieved 14 March 2016. 
  46. ^ "Soundtrack Album: Easy Rider". The Band Website. Jan Hoiberg. Retrieved 14 March 2016. 
  47. ^ a b c d e f g Whitburn, Joel (1995). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Albums (Third ed.). New York: Billboard Books (Watson-Guptill Publications). pp. 25–26. ISBN 0823076318. 
  48. ^ Bowman, Rob. "The History of The Band: The Masterpiece". The Band Website. Jan Hoiberg. Retrieved 13 March 2016. 
  49. ^ Cocks, Jay (12 January 1970). "Down To Old Dixie and Back". Time (New York: Time Inc.). Retrieved 13 March 2016. 
  50. ^ "Robbie Robertson Biography". Robbie Robertson Official Site. Retrieved 14 March 2016. 
  51. ^ Bowman, Rob. "The History of The Band: Stage Fright and Cahoots". The Band Website. Jan Hoiberg. Retrieved 13 March 2016. 
  52. ^ a b c Bowman, Rob. "The History of The Band: The "In Between" Years". The Band Website. Jan Hoiberg. Retrieved 14 February 2016. 
  53. ^ "Live at Watkins Glen". The Band Website. Jan Hoiberg. Retrieved 14 March 2016. 
  54. ^ Björner, Olof. "Still On the Road: 1973 Recording Sessions". Olof Björner. Retrieved 27 March 2016. 
  55. ^ Friedman, Jon (2 January 2014). "The Greatest Rock Tour: Bob Dylan & The Band in 1974 -- 40 Years Later". Jon Friedman's Media Matrix. Indiewire. Retrieved 28 March 2016. 
  56. ^ a b Björner, Olof. "Still On the Road: 1974 Tour of America With The Band". Olof Björner. Retrieved 27 March 2016. 
  57. ^ DeRiso, Nick (3 January 2014). "The Story of Bob Dylan's Return to the Road With the Band". Ultimate Classic Rock. Diffuser Network. Retrieved 28 March 2016. 
  58. ^ a b Fraboni, Rob. "Bob Dylan’s Before The Flood 40 Years Later". Rob Fraboni. Retrieved 28 March 2016. 
  59. ^ Selvin, Joel (2002-04-04). "The day the music lived / Rereleased 'Last Waltz' documents amazing night in 1976 when rock's royalty bid farewell to the Band". SFGate. Retrieved 2014-03-11. 
  60. ^ Jefferson, Margo (1993-12-29). "Books of The Times; A Member of the Band Recalls Its Glory Days". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014-03-11. 
  61. ^ Robertson, Robbie (25 November 2013). Robbie Robertson on George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight: Interview. Interview with George Stroumboulopoulos. George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight. CBC. Toronto. Retrieved 16 February 2016. 
  62. ^ a b c d "The Band". Canada's Walk of Fame. Retrieved 27 August 2015. 
  63. ^ "Robbie Robertson". Archived from the original on May 17, 2008. Retrieved December 13, 2008. 
  64. ^ "Robbie Robertson". Governor General's Performing Arts Awards Foundation. Retrieved December 20, 2009. 
  65. ^ "Michael J. Fox among 43 invested in Order of Canada". Globe and Mail (Toronto). May 27, 2011. 
  66. ^ "Governor General notice: Robbie Robertson, O.C.". The Governor General of Canada. Retrieved 2012-12-24. 
  67. ^ "At 67, Robbie Robertson has nothing left to prove". Globe and Mail (Toronto). August 23, 2012. 

External links[edit]