RIP Robbie Robertson (1943-2023)

11th August 2023 · 1980s, 1987, 2020s, 2023, Music

I have to own up. I did not know anything about Robbie Robertson until he made his first solo album in 1987. But when I did it was love at first note. This is the song that blew me away.

Somehow I’d missed the news that he was playing guitar with Bob Dylan since the mid-1960s, and had never heard The Band, who I thought were just Dylan’s backing band on The Basement Tapes (which I had never heard either); I missed out on a lot.

After hearing this, with its Leonard Cohenish spoken-word verses, I began to investigate further and learned that Robertson was an important figure in music: something that became clear when I finally got around to watching Martin Scorsese’s film The Last Waltz.

I had a lot of catching up to do and I did it, acquiring The Band’s back catalogue and discovering the wonders of The Weight, from their debut Music From Big Pink, and The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down (which I knew only from Joan Baez’s hit single in 1971) from the self-titled second album.

Then there were the Scorsese soundtracks, which I probably didn’t know were by him when I saw those films – Raging Bull, The King Of Comedy, Casino, The Departed, The Wolf Of Wall Street… right up to The Irishman.

I didn’t know about his Native American Indian roots either, though I did know, through his later song Acadian Driftwood, about the connection between the Cajuns of Louisiana and their forebears, the Acadians, who were exiled from Canada by the British in the 18th Century in an event called The Great Expulsion.

Anyway, what a legacy he left; and what a song this is, from one of the first albums produced by the great Daniel Lanois.

RIP Robbie Robertson (1943-2023)