Robbie Robertson, lead guitarist and songwriter for The Band, dies at 80

Robbie Robertson, a film composer and The Band co-founder who penned the 1970s classics “The Weight” and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” has died at the age of 80. File Photo by Bryan Smith/UPI
Robbie Robertson, a film composer and The Band co-founder who penned the 1970s classics “The Weight” and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” has died at the age of 80. File Photo by Bryan Smith/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 9 (UPI) -- Robbie Robertson, a film composer and The Band's co-founder who penned the 1970s classics "The Weight" and "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," has died at the age of 80.

Robertson's management company said the guitarist, singer and songwriter died Wednesday in Los Angeles after a long illness.


"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," the statement read. "Robertson recently completed his fourteenth film music project with frequent collaborator Martin Scorsese, 'Killers of the Flower Moon.' In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made to the Six Nations of the Grand River to support a new Woodland Cultural Center."


Robertson was born in Toronto, Ontario, and was 16-years-old when he joined the Hawks as a guitarist. The band went on to play with Bob Dylan during his "Going Electric" tours in 1965 and 1966.

Two years later, the Hawks signed with Capitol Records and were renamed The Band. Their first two albums, Music from Big Pink and The Band, drew heavily on American folk, "blues and country music, Southern stuff," according to Robertson.

The Band rose to fame during the early 1970s with a sold-out tour, a No. 1 album Planet Waves and an appearance at Woodstock. The group broke up in 1976 due to substance abuse problems and played their final concert -- "The Last Waltz" -- on Thanksgiving night of that year. Director Martin Scorsese released a documentary about the concert in 1978.

During the 1990s, The Band reunited and recorded several albums without Robertson. Robertson was inducted with his band mates into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.

Robertson, who was also a five-time Grammy nominee, went on to a solo career and success as a film composer scoring many of Scorsese's films, including "Raging Bull," "The Color of Money," "Gangs of New York," "Shutter Island," "The Wolf of Wall Street," and "The Irishman."


Scorcese's film "Killers of the Flower Moon," which is scheduled for release later this year, was also scored by Robertson who reflected on his collaborations with the director in a recent interview with Variety.

"We're in awe of ourselves that our brotherhood has outlasted everything," Robertson said two weeks ago. "We've been through it; we've been there and back. I am so proud of our friendship and our work. It's been just a gift in life."

"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," Scorcese said Wednesday 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," Scorcese added.

"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."


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Former British Chancellor Alistair Darling arrives for the International Monetary Fund financial committee meeting in Washington on April 25, 2009. Alistair, who served a three-year spell as chancellor in the Labor government of Prime Minister Gordon Brown and held an array of high-level posts in Prime Minister Tony Blair's cabinet, died at the age of 70 on November 30. Photo by Alexis C. Glenn/UPI | License Photo

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