Robbie Robertson, The Band’s founding guitarist, dies at 80

Robbie Robertson, The Band’s founding guitarist, dies at 80

Robbie Robertson, The Band’s world-famous founding guitarist, died at 80 after a lifetime of rocking and rolling.

Robbie Robertson, the founding guitarist for The Band, has passed away. According to Robertson’s longtime manager Jared Levine, the world-famous musician passed away on Wednesday. He was 80.

Born Jaime Robbie Robertson on July 5, 1974, in Toronto, the Hall of Famer played on The Band’s classic hits like “The Weight,” “Rag Mama Rag,” “Up on Cripple Creek,” “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” “Atlantic City,” “Jawbone,” and more. Nominated for five Grammy awards, Robertson arrived on the music scene at the influential age of 16, when he played for Ronnie Hawkins’ The Hawks. He helped found the Americana genre and was Bob Dylan’s guitarist on the “electric” world tour in 1966.

The Hall of Fame released an official statement about Robertson’s passing, which you can read below:

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 lineup 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.

The Band made headlines in 1968 with its debut album, Music from Big Pink. The Band shredded the 1969 Woodstock stage and was the first North American rock outfit to grace the cover of Time magazine.

Comprised of Robertson, Levon Helm, Garth Hudson, Rick Danko, and Richard Manuel, The Band ripped up the Billboard chart with its 1969 self-titled sophomore release. In 1973, The Band played to the most significant audience in rock concert history at the Watkins Glen Festival in New York. An estimated 650,000 fans gathered to hear their favorite songs, all laughing, dancing, shouting, and partaking in the Devil’s lettuce as the band melted faces.

In 1987, Robertson spread his wings for a solo career, releasing a self-titled solo album with hits like “Showdown at Big Sky” and “Sweet Fire,” giving fans a reason to sway their hips and raise lighters.

Robertson appears on several film soundtracks, including tracks for Bill Murray’s Scrooged and various films for Martin Scorsese, including The Wolf of Wall Street and Killers of the Flower Moon.

Here is Levine’s complete statement on Robertson’s passing:

“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 Centre. Contact: [email protected]

Today is a sad day for the realm of rock and roll. I remember hearing Robertson’s work with The Band in my youth. My parents would play The Band’s music in our house non-stop, alongside recordings from Cream, Stevie Wonder, Led Zeppelin, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and more.

We here at JoBlo wish Mr. Robertson’s family, friends, and fans the best as they process and heal from this unfortunate loss. If you’ve never heard The Band, or Robertson’s other work, do yourself a favor and look them up, crank the volume to eleven, and enjoy the vibes.