The Band’s Robbie Robertson has died, aged 80

Martin Scorsese, Ringo Starr, Joni Mitchell, Neil Diamond and more have paid tribute to the late musician

The Band guitarist and singer-songwriter Robbie Robertson has died. He was 80.

The news was confirmed on Wednesday night (August 9) via The Band’s management on social media. The statement, which originally came from Robertson’s family, reads: “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.”

Robbie Robertson is survived by his grandchildren Angelica, Donovan, Dominic, Gabriel, and Seraphina.

Robertson’s family has called for donations to be made to the Six Nations of the Grand River in lieu of sending flowers. The donations will be helped to support a new Woodland Cultural Centre.

Robbie Robertson met Ronnie Hawkins, Levon Helm, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson as a teenager, and they went on to form The Hawks. Following the band’s split from Hawkins in 1965, they were recruited to be Bob Dylan‘s backing band during his pivot to non-acoustic music.

Robertson and co. then rebranded themselves as The Band, and released their debut album ‘Music from Big Pink’ in 1968. They would go on to release hits like ‘The Weight’, ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down’ ‘Up on Cripple Creek’ and ‘It Makes No Difference’ until their farewell show in 1976.

The farewell show was documented by Martin Scorsese in The Last Waltz, which was released in 1978 and is widely considered an all-time classic music documentary.

Robertson would go on to work with his former Band members in other side projects while also releasing solo material throughout the rest of his career. He released his self-titled debut in 1986 and his sophomore record, ‘Storyville’, in 1991, and contributed to records by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Ringo Starr, Neil Diamond and others. Robertson released his final solo album, ‘Sinematic’, in 2019.

Robbie Robertson
Robbie Robertson performs live with The Band in 1971. Credit: Michael Putland/Getty Images

Since The Last Waltz, Robertson had maintained a creative relationship with Martin Scorsese, who also produced 2019’s Once Were Brothers documentary based on Robertson’s recollections.

Robertson went on to score several of Scorsese’s films, including Raging Bull, Casino, The Wolf of Wall Street and The Irishmen. His last collaboration with Scorsese will come in the form of score for Killers of the Flower Moon score, which is set for release later this year.

Following the news of his death, tributes have begun pouring in for the late musician.

Scorsese said of Robertson via a statement to Pitchfork: “Robbie Robertson was one of my closest friends, a constant in my life and my work. I could always go to him as a confidante. A collaborator. An advisor. I tried to be the same for him.”

“Long before we ever met, his music played a central role in my life—me and millions and millions of other people all over this world. The Band’s music, and Robbie’s own later solo music, seemed to come from the deepest place at the heart of this continent, its traditions and tragedies and joys. It goes without saying that he was a giant, that his effect on the art form was profound and lasting. There’s never enough time with anyone you love. And I loved Robbie,” Scorsese continued.

Neil Diamond wrote on Twitter: “The music world lost a great one with the passing of Robbie Robertson. Keep making that Beautiful Noise in the sky, Robbie. I’ll miss you.”

Joni Mitchell’s team wrote: “Rest in peace Robbie Robertson, legendary lead guitarist of The Band, fellow Canadian, and cherished collaborator of Joni’s. May his legacy and musical harmony resonate for generations to come.”

See more tributes below.

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