Robbie Robertson, leader of The Band, dies at 80

Robbie Robertson, leader of The Band, dies at 80

Robbie Robertson, a Canadian musician and songwriter who made his mark in the late 1960s and early ’70s as the leader of the influential rock group The Band, died Wednesday after a long illness. He was 80.

His death was announced by his longtime manager, Jared Levine.

“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,” Levine’s statement said, in part. “He is also survived by his grandchildren Angelica, Donovan, Dominic, Gabriel and Seraphina.”

Born Jaime Royal Robertson on July 5, 1943, he was one of the last two surviving members of The Band, an influential rock band that mixed folk, gospel and jazz with rhythm and blues and helped forge a distinctly American kind of roots rock sound. The other is keyboardist Garth Hudson.

Robertson, Hudson, as well as bassist Rick Danko and pianist Richard Manuel, were all born in Canada.

Drummer Levon Helm, the only member of the band who was born in the United States, died in 2012. Danko died in 1999. Manuel died in 1986.

Robertson played lead guitar and wrote some of The Band’s best-known songs, including “The Weight,” “Up on Cripple Creek,” and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.”

But it was Robertson’s appearance in “The Last Waltz,” a 1978 documentary about the group’s farewell concert that was directed by Martin Scorsese, that made him a star.

Robertson went on to produce scores and curated songs for Scorsese movies like “Raging Bull,” “The Departed,” “The Wolf of Wall Street” and “The Irishman.”

Shortly before he died, Robertson finished his fourteenth film music project with Scorsese called “Killer of the Flower Moon,” Levine said.

“Robbie Robertson was one of my closest friends, a constant in my life and my work,” Scorsese said in a statement. “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.”

The Band started out as back-up musicians in the early 1960s for a Toronto-based rockabilly singer named Ronnie Hawkins. By 1965, the quintet was touring the world with Bob Dylan.

But it wasn’t until 1968, when Roberston and his bandmates released their debut album, “Music from Big Pink,” that The Band began calling itself The Band.

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