This afternoon, it was reported that Robbie Robertson, the guitarist best known for his work as a founding member of The Band, has passed away at the age of 80. Robertson, along with Garth Hudson, was one of the last remaining members of the legendary rock outfit and backing band of Ronnie Hawkins and, later, Bob Dylan. His death was preceded by Richard Manuel in 1986, Rick Danko in 1999 and Levon Helm in 2012.
After getting his start in Ronnie Hawkins’ backing band The Hawks, Robertson became a credited songwriter on big Band tracks like “The Weight,” “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” “Up on Cripple Creek” and “The Shape I’m In.” Some of his best guitar work came on Dylan’s “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” and the Band’s “King Harvest (Has Surely Come)” and “To Kingdom Come.” Robertson would go on to achieve a successful solo career after the Band’s disintegration in 1977, releasing Top-40 hits like “Showdown at Big Sky,” “Somewhere Down the Crazy River,” “Go Back to your Woods” and “What About Now” in the 1980s and ’90s.
Robertson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994 with Danko, Helm, Hudson and Manuel, and he is also a member of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. Alongside a prolific performing career, he collaborated with Martin Scorsese on film soundtracks for some of the director’s greatest works, including Raging Bull, Casino, The Departed and, most-recently, The Irishman in 2019.
After a 60-plus-year career, Robbie Robertson will be greatly missed by music fans across the world, but his imprint on rock ‘n’ roll shall endure as undeniable, essential and irreplaceable—and his music will reach many lifetimes beyond this one.
Watch The Band perform “The Weight” at Winterland in San Francisco in 1976 and check out all our exclusive video from The Band on Music Vault. And watch a 2011 interview Robertson did with Wolfgangs via YouTube.