I had just about completed writing this week when I heard that Robbie Robertson had died. So, I started over. Robertson was 80 years old, and back in the 1960s, he was a member of The Band. I didn’t know much about The Band or Robertson, but I knew some of their songs, such as The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, Up on Cripple Creek, and The Weight. His obituary in The Washington Post noted that “Mr. Robertson was widely credited with helping forge a music genre known as Americana that brought together folk, country, and rock and leaned heavily on traditions of storytelling and sense of place, contrasting with the emerging psychedelic sound in the 1960s.”
The Band debuted in 1968 and stayed together for eight years. Robertson put together a farewell concert in 1976 “chronicled in Martin Scorsese’s film The Last Waltz," where The Band was joined by many artists including Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, and Eric Clapton to celebrate that final concert.
I learned about Mr. Robertson when my brother encouraged me to watch a video on the website Playing for Change. The video was a collaboration of many artists, including Robertson and Ringo Starr, performing The Weight. According to the website, “Playing For Change was created to inspire and connect the world through music.” At 81 years of age, 50 years after writing The Weight, he was still working at his craft.
In an interview with Variety in 2018, he said “I love the sense of starting from a place where I have no idea what to do and then some light shines through and it turns into something magical.” We’ve all enjoyed that magic for over 50 years. Rest in peace, Robbie.
Take care and stay safe.
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