Songwriter Robbie Robertson of The Band Has Passed Away, Aged 80

Robbie Robertson
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Robbie Robertson
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Photo Credit: The Band

Canadian songwriter and guitarist for the Band, Robbie Robertson, has passed away. He was 80.

Manager Jared Levine confirmed that Robertson passed away after dealing with a long illness. Robertson’s lyrics evoked feelings of Americana and featured songs from folk, country, blues, and gospel music. In choosing the subjects for his lyrics and music, Robertson said he wanted his music to feel timeless when it was new.

“I wanted to write music that felt like it could’ve been written 50 years ago, tomorrow, yesterday—that has this lost-in-time-quality,” Robertson said in 1995 speaking on an episode of the public television series, “Rock & Roll.”

“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,” reads the statement announcing his passing.

He was born Jamie Royal Robertson in Toronto, Canada in 1943. He joined the rockabilly singer Ronnie Hawkins’ backing band The Hawks, before leaving to tour as Bob Dylan’s backup band. They recorded the basement tapes with Dylan in 1967.

The Hawks eventually became The Band, releasing their debut album Music from Big Pink in 1968. Robertson was the primary composer for most of the songs including “The Weight,” “Up On Cripple Creek,” and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.”

The Band split up in 1976 following a personal conflict and substance abuse issues. Their last concert is the subject of the Martin Scorsese film ‘The Last Waltz.’ Following that split, Robertson released six solo albums. His solo debut released in 1987 and featured Peter Gabriel and Bono. Robertson and The Band were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.

Robertson continued his work with Martin Scorsese on other films, including for ‘Raging Bull,’ ‘The King of Comedy,’ ‘Casino,’ ‘The Departed,’ ‘The Wolf of Wall Street,’ and ‘The Irishman.’ He recently completed his fourteenth film music project with Scorsese, ‘Killers of the Flower Moon.’

In lieu of flowers, his manager asks that donations be made to the Six Nations of the Grand River for a new cultural center. Robertson’s mother was a Mohawk—one of the First Nation Six Nations.