Robbie Robertson, best known as the lead guitarist and songwriter of the Band, has died at the age of 80. According to a statement from his management, the musician passed away in Los Angeles after a long illness.
“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,” the statement reads. “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 center.”
Jaime Royal Robertson was born on July 5, 1943 and grew up on the Six Nations Reserve southwest of Toronto, Ontario. Drawn to music from an early age, he began working at a traveling carnival circuit at 14, and later as an assistant at a freak show. He joined Ronnie Hawkins and his group the Hawks when he was 16, playing guitar alongside drummer Levon Helm, keyboardist Richard Manuel, organist Garth Hudson, and bassist Rick Danko. After splitting from Hawkins at the beginning of 1964, the Hawks were recruited as Bob Dylan’s backing band, following him to Woodstock, New York, where they recorded what would later be known as The Basement Tapes, as well as their 1968 debut Music from Big Pink.
Robertson is credited with writing some of the Band’s biggest hits, including ‘The Weight’, ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down’, and ‘Up on Cripple Creek’. In addition to his output with the Band, which included ten studio albums and nine live albums, Robertson also recorded six LPs as a solo artist. On Thanksgiving day in 1976, the Band put on their final performance, which was documented by Martin Scorsese in The Last Waltz. That also marked the beginning of a long-term collaborative relationship between Roberston and Scorcese, with Roberston working as a music supervisor for The King of Comedy, Casino, Gangs of New York, Shutter Island, and The Wolf of Wall Street. He also composed the score for Scorcese’s new film Killers of the Flower Moon, which is due for release this year.