Robbie Robertson Biography
Jaime Royal “Robbie” Robertson,OC, is a Canadian musician, songwriter, film composer, producer, actor, and author.Robertson was born Jaime Royal Robertson on July 5, 1943. He was an only child. His mother was Rose Marie Chrysler, a full blooded Mohawk:6 who was raised on the Six Nations Reserve southwest of Toronto, Ontario. Chrysler lived with an aunt in the Cabbagetown neighborhood, and worked at a jewelry plating factory. Robertson’s biological father was a Jewish professional gambler named Alexander David Klegerman.
Klegerman was killed in a hit and run accident while changing a tire on the Queen Elizabeth Way; this incident occurred while Robertson was still an infant. Robertson’s mother married co-worker James Patrick Robertson, who adopted Robertson. Robertson’s parents continued to work at the jewelry plating factory where they met, and lived in several homes in different Toronto neighborhoods while Robertson was a child.:55:65
Robertson’s mother often traveled with her son to the Six Nations Reserve to visit their family. It was here that Robertson was mentored in playing guitar by family members, in particular his older cousin Herb Myke. Robertson became a fan of rock ‘n’ roll and R&B through the radio, listening to disc jockey George “Hound Dog” Lorenz play rock ‘n’ roll on WKBW in Buffalo, New York, and staying up at night to listen to disc jockey John R.’s all-night blues show on WLAC, a clear-channel station in Nashville, Tennessee.
Robbie Robertson Career
Robbie Robertson became a professional musician as a teenager when he joined Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks in 1959. While working with Bob Dylan, Robertson formed The Band with some of his fellow backup musicians. Releasing their first album in 1968, The Band had a string of hit recordings. They broke up in 1976. Since then, Robertson has worked on music for films and made several solo albums. Robertson dropped out of school at 16 to pursue a life in music. After playing with some local groups, he went to work for rockabilly artist Ronnie Hawkins as part of his backup band, the Hawks. Hawkins recorded two early tracks by Robertson—”Hey Boba Lu” and “Someone Like You.” Touring extensively with Hawkins, Robertson eventually branched out with some of the other Hawks: drummer Levon Helm, bassist Rick Danko, pianist Richard Manuel and organist Garth Hudson. They played as Levon & the Hawks for a time.
Robertson and his Hawks bandmates joined Bob Dylan for his first electric tour in the mid-1960s, which drew mostly negative reactions from Dylan’s acoustic-folk fans. Helm left the band for a time, but he later rejoined Robertson and the rest of group near Woodstock, New York, while Dylan recuperated from a motorcycle accident. Living in a pink house in West Saugerties, Robertson and the others began working on some songs together. The bands first album, Music from Big Pink in 1968, was warmly received by critics. While the main vocals were usually provided by Helm, Manuel and Danko, Robertson sang lead on one of the album’s tracks, “To Kingdom Come.” The recording has been cited by other rock stars, such as Eric Clapton and the Rolling Stones, as an important influence. With The Band, Robertson had dropped his wailing guitar method, striving for a more nuanced approach to the music. “I wanted to develop a guitar style where phrases and lines get there just in the nick of time, like with Curtis Mayfield and Steve Cropper,” he later told Guitar Player magazine. “Subtleties mean so much, and there is a stunning beauty in them.”
Commercial success soon followed with their 1969 self-titled release, which featured such songs as “Up on Cripple Creek” and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” Behind the scenes, Robertson penned many of the group’s songs and was praised for his storytelling abilities. The group became part of music history as one of the acts at the legendary Woodstock Festival held that year. The Band continued to enjoy great popularity with their subsequent albums, including 1970’s Stage Fright and the live recording Rock of Ages, released in 1972. In 1974 they reunited with Dylan for a tour. While on the road together, Dylan and The Band recorded the concert album Before the Flood, which proved to be another big hit. The Band called it quits in 1976,and their final show was an all-star salute to the groundbreaking rock act. Muddy Waters, Neil Young and Emmylou Harris were just a few of the music stars who participated in this farewell concert. Martin Scorsese filmed the event and later released it as The Last Waltz. Robertson and Scorsese became good friends during the project.
Robertson had begun to go his own way ,even before The Band officially split. He produced Neil Diamond’s 1976 album, Beautiful Noise. Delving into the film world, Robertson tried his luck in acting with 1980’s Carny, with Gary Busey and Jodie Foster. He also helped create the music for the movie. In late 1987, Robertson launched his solo career with a self-titled album. The new recording featured appearances by Peter Gabriel and members of the rock band U2. While the album sold well, Robertson didn’t achieve the same level of commercial success he had experienced with The Band. He then turned his focus to the sounds of New Orleans for 1991’s Storyville, which garnered him two Grammy Award nominations.
Robertson returned to his roots for 1994’s Music for the Native Americans. As he told Guitar Player, “I wanted to do something that didn’t conform to the stereotype of Native American music. Everything on this album—the stories, rhythms, and harmonies—evolves out of some tradition, but we weren’t trying to be old-fashioned.” Native American music also informed his next work, 1998’s Contact from the Underworld of Redboy. Additionally, he created a documentary for television on the subject, Making a Noise: A Native American Journey with Robbie Robertson.Returning to acting, Robertson appeared in the 1995 drama The Crossing Guard, with Jack Nicholson and Anjelica Huston. Robertson also worked with Martin Scorsese on the soundtrack for Scorsese’s crime drama Casino that same year.
In 2000, Robertson put his musical know-how to work for DreamWorks Records. There he served as creative executive and signed such acts as Nelly Furtado and Boomkats to the label. Robertson also worked hard on preserving The Band’s musical legacy around this time. He handled the reissuing of the group’s recordings, overseeing the remastering and remixing of all their songs. In the year 2011, Robertson released his latest recording, How to Become Clairvoyant, breaking a 13-year absence from the music scene. The project started out as a joint session with Eric Clapton, in which they were “hanging out and playing a little music and telling stories.” The pair came up with some song ideas, but their schedules took them in different directions. Robertson later revisited the material, which inspired his new album. On the recording, Clapton served as a creative cohort, performing on seven of the songs. Robertson also had some help from such performers as Trent Reznor and Steve Winwood.
On the album, Robertson explored some personal topics. He sang about his time with The Band in “This Is Where I Get Off,” which seems imply that they all “drifted off course” and that their enormous fame contributed to the split. In an interview with Maclean’s, Robertson said that he and his former bandmates matured “in different directions. Everybody grows in their own way. And so you start seeing things through different lenses.”
Robbie Robertson Honors and Awards
The Band was inducted into the Canadian Juno Hall of Fame ,in 1989. In 1994, The Band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.In 1997, Robertson received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Songwriters. At the 2003 commencement ceremonies at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Robertson delivered an address to the graduating class and was awarded an honorary degree by the university. In 2003, Robertson received the Indspire Aboriginal Lifetime Achievement Award.
In 2003, Robertson was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame.In 2005, Robertson received an honorary doctorate from York University. In 2006, he received the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement, Canada’s highest honour in the performing arts. In 2008, Robertson and The Band received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.In 2011, Robertson was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. On May 27, 2011, Robertson was made an Officer of the Order of Canada by Governor General David Johnston.In 2014, The Band was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame.
Robbie Robertson Personal Life
In 1967, Robertson married Dominique Bourgeois, a Canadian journalist.They later divorced. They have three children: two daughters Alexandra and Delphine, and son Sebastian.
Robbie Robertson Age
He was born on July 5, 1943.
Robbie Robertson Memoir
By Robbie Robertson
Illustrated. 500 pp. Crown Archetype. $30.
Levon Helm was dying of cancer, and Robbie Robertson went to see him. “I sat with Levon for a good while,” he noted on Facebook, “and thought of the incredible and beautiful times we had together.”
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Helm died a few days later — April 19, 2012 — and the deathbed scene became a part of the Band’s story, alongside all that happened on tour with Bob Dylan, in the basement of Big Pink, up on Cripple Creek and during the Last Waltz. Did Robbie apologize for (as Levon had it) breaking up the band and making off with the songwriting royalties, or did he absolve the ex-friend who had slagged him baselessly for three decades, and tell him it made no difference in the end? The web surged with conjecture, and the quarrel showed up on listicles of the Great Feuds of All Time.
That was strange. More than any other rock group, the Band made music about people other than themselves: unfaithful servants, Confederate Army vets, lonesome Suzie. They gave other musicians center stage at their own farewell concert. Better for them to sing about some old friends feuding than to feud themselves.
Robertson understands this. The deathbed scene doesn’t figure in “Testimony,” but the friendship that made the break with Helm so awful is present at every point in this autobiography.
“I felt a hand tap me on the shoulder, reminding me to tread lightly and try to protect my brothers,” he writes of the moment in 1976 when he realized that three of the five Band members were hooked on heroin. “I kept harping to Levon, to Richard and Rick, about finding some kind of sanctuary where we could stop riding so close to the edge.”
BOOKS OF THE TIMES
Robbie Robertson of the Band Tells All in ‘Testimony’ NOV. 8, 2016
Obviously, Robertson is getting the last word with this long book. And yet his strong point of view is offset by the tenderness he shows, and his stress on his own experience is set within a craftsman’s effort to tell the story whole — an effort to do justice to their adventures as young men, talented, stylish, successful and lucky, who knew the joy of creative friendship besides.
“Testimony” ends where “The Last Waltz” ends, with the Band disbanding, and like the film it doesn’t establish beyond a doubt that the Band had to break up instead of just taking a break. No, this book (another may follow) is about beginnings, not endings: It’s a full-dress drama of initiation, as Robertson comes to know the rock ’n’ roll life with the singer Ronnie Hawkins; American roots with Helm (a proud Arkansan); fame and genius through Dylan; artistic fulfillment with the Band; and the perils of adulthood as the group is undone by family life, fights over money, drug abuse and the “lifestyles of the crooked and the bent.”
As the book opens Robertson is 16 and “headed to the holy land of rock ’n’ roll,” having sold his Stratocaster to pay for a train ticket from Toronto to Arkansas. Before long he brings the story back home. He grew up in Ontario, the son of a Mohawk-Cayuga mother and — as he later learned — a Jewish father, a cardsharp who was struck and killed by a motorist early in her pregnancy. Once word was out that Robertson’s father was Alex Klegerman, not Jim Robertson, his Jewish uncles Natie and Morrie (“products of Toronto’s Jewish underworld”) decided to look out for him.
He had quit school to join the Hawks, backing Hawkins, who had come north from Arkansas with the young drummer Levon Helm to work Canada’s club circuit. The Hawks took on musicians who would form the Band — the bassist Rick Danko, the pianist Richard Manuel, the organist and all-around virtuoso Garth Hudson — and gained a reputation as the best R&B band north of Memphis, and the hardest-working. The Beatles were playing the club circuit in Hamburg then, and Malcolm Gladwell recently made the episode evidence for his “10,000-hour rule” of achievement — but Gladwell, proud product of Ontario, could just as well have used the Hawks. Weed, women, Cadillacs; a drug bust; nights hearing Muddy, Otis and Aretha: The Hawks spent 10,000 hours enjoying the hell out of life, too.