The Band Singer-Guitarist Robbie Robertson Has Died at 80
The news was confirmed by Robertson's management, who revealed to Variety that the singer passed on Wednesday (Aug. 9) in Los Angeles after a long illness. In a statement, manager Jared Levine stated, “Robbie was surrounded by his family at the time of his death, including his wife, Janet, his ex-wife, Dominique, her partner Nicholas, and his children Alexandra, Sebastian, Delphine, and Delphine’s partner Kenny. He is also survived by his grandchildren Angelica, Donovan, Dominic, Gabriel and Seraphina. Robertson recently completed his fourteenth film music project with frequent collaborator Martin Scorsese, Killers of the Flower Moon. In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made to the Six Nations of the Grand River to support a new Woodland Cultural Center.”
The Band, who started off playing as the backing band for Ronnie Hawkins, later gained greater recognition in the '60s serving as the backing band for Bob Dylan. They eventually ventured out on their own, changing their name to "The Band" after leaving Dylan, and had a celebrated catalog of music that kept them going into the mid-'70s. Album highlights included Music From Big Pink, The Band and Stage Fright.
But, with Robertson growing tired of touring and having started a family, the group decided to end their career in 1976. Their all-star farewell concert, dubbed The Last Waltz, was captured by director Martin Scorsese and became one of the best known music films of all-time. That partnership with Scorsese carried over to more film projects for Robertson in the years to come. He most recently teamed with Scorsese on music for the upcoming film, Killers of the Flower Moon. Robertson was also behind the 2019 documentary Once Were Brothers that told the story of The Band.
As a member of The Band, Robertson sang and played guitars, percussion and piano. He's best known for writing such standout tracks as "The Weight," "Up on Cripple Creek," "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" and "The Shape I'm In" among others.
Robertson also ventured out with a solo career that yielded six studio albums, starting with 1987's self-titled debut and most recently included 2019's Sinematic.
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The musician was inducted into Canada's Juno Hall of Fame in 1989, and he joined The Band with a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 1994.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame issued a statement which read:
The architect and primary songwriter of The Band, 1994 inductee Robbie Robertson changed the course of popular music in the late 1960s. Though born and raised in Canada, Robertson found poetry in America’s history and mythology, and with a fusion of blues, rock, folk, R&B, and country, his compositions embodied the genre that came to be known as Americana. Such songs as “The Weight,” “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” and “Up On Cripple Creek” have become cultural monuments, thematically fusing the past with the present and leaving an immeasurable impact. Robertson’s razor-sharp guitar leads were a critical part of The Band’s sound, and after the group’s original line-up ended with the epic concert and film The Last Waltz, he went on to an acclaimed solo career and extensive work scoring films, including those of director Martin Scorsese.
Robertson follows Rick Danko, Levon Helm and Richard Manuel in death, with keyboardist Garth Hudson being the only original member of the band still living.
Revisit some of Robbie Robertson's best works solo and with The Band below as well as some tributes from fellow musicians