PROFILE
Name:
Robbie Robertson
Birth Date:
July 5, 1943
Birth Place:
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Height:
6' 1" (1.85 m)
Nationality:
Canadian
Famous for:
Songwriter, guitarist and singer of The Band
BIOGRAPHY
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The Band

Background:

Canadian native Robbie Robertson is best known as the main songwriter and guitarist for the influential rock music group The Band. He recorded several albums with the group, including “Music From Big Pink” (1968), “The Band” (1969), “Stage Fright” (1970), “Cahoots” (1971), “Moondog Matinee” (1973), “Northern Lights - Southern Cross” (1975) and “Islands” (1977) and the 1972 live album “Rock of Ages” before the group disbanded in 1976. The Band was reunited in 1983 without Robertson. Songs he wrote for the group included “The Weight,” “Chest Fever,” “To Kingdom Come,” “Stage Fright,” “The Shape I'm In,” and “Up On Cripple Creek.” The Band has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. After the disbanding of The Band, Robertson released a string of solo albums, such as the Canadian double platinum release “Robbie Robertson” (1987), featuring U2 and Peter Gabriel, “Storyville” (1991), “Music for The Native Americans” (1994) and “Contact from the Underworld of Redboy” (1998), as well as the popular singles “Somewhere Down the Crazy River,” “Showdown at Big Sky,” “Sweet Fire of Love” and “What About Now,” among other singles. Robertson has also been involved in various film projects and is perhaps best recognized for his frequent collaboration with film director Martin Scorsese. Also an occasional actor, Robertson costarred in the films “Carny” (1980) and “The Crossing Guard” (1995).

Robertson received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Songwriters in 1997. He was handed the Governor General's Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement in 2006.


Robert Klegerman

Childhood and Family:

Robbie Robertson was born Jaime Robert Klegerman on July 5, 1943, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, to a Jewish father and a Mohawk Indian mother. After his mother remarried, he was adopted by his stepfather and took his stepfather's last name, Robertson. As a child, while spending a summer at his mother's childhood home of Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation, he first experienced live music and was introduced to country music. Shortly after, he began taking guitar lessons from a cousin and composed his first song. Robbie attended R.H. King High School in Scarborough, Ontario, but quit to pursue a career as a performer.

In 1967, Robbie married a journalist named Dominique Bourgeois. They have three children named Alexandra, Delphine and Sebastian Robertson.


Shine Your Light

Career:

As a teenager, Robbie Robertson played with various groups around Toronto, such as Robbie and the Robots, Little Caesar and the Consuls, and Thumper and the Trombones. His early break came when he was recruited by Ronnie Hawkins as lead guitarist for The Hawks after Hawkins recorded two of Robertson's early songs, “Hey Boba Lu” and “Someone Like You.” He frequently toured with the band before parting ways with Hawkins in 1963. Robertson then formed a new group with former The Hawks band members Levon Helm (drummer), Richard Manuel (pianist), Rick Danko (bassist) and Garth Hudson (keyboardist). The quintet used various names like Levon and the Hawks, The Honkies and The Crackers, and the Canadian Squires before eventually taking on the name The Band in 1968.

Robertson and the group toured almost continuously, but found little success. Their luck started to change when blues singer John Hammond Jr. asked then to perform and record with him in New York, Chicago and Texas. It was Hammond who recommended the group to Bob Dylan when the noted American singer and songwriter was searching for a backup band for his first U.S. “Electric” tour. He then hired The Band as his backup band for his Forest Hills concert in August 1965. The group also recorded with Bob Dylan for the albums “Planet Waves,” “The Basement Tapes,” “Before the Flood” and “The Bootleg Series Vol. 4: Bob Dylan Live 1966, The Royal Albert Hall Concert.” Robertson also played guitar on Dylan's seventh studio album, “Blonde on Blonde” (1966).

After moving to New York, Robertson and The Band launched their debut album, “Music From Big Pink,” on July 1, 1968, on Capitol Records. The album received positive reviews from critics, but was not a big commercial success. It peaked at No. 30 on the Billboard Pop Albums chart and spawned one of the group's best known singles, “The Weight.” Written by Robertson, the song gained widespread popularity and rose to the Top 40 in Canada (#35) and the U.K. (#21). In the U.S., it peaked at No. 68 on the Billboard Hot 100. “Music From Big Pink” was certified gold by RIAA.

Robertson and The Band enjoyed their breakthrough hit with the self titled sophomore effort “The Band” (also called “The Brown Album”). Released on September 22, 1969, the album peaked at No. 9 on the Billboard 200 and No. 2 in Canada. It went platinum in the U.S. The album produced two singles with “Up on Cripple Creek” (1969) and “Rag Mama Rag” (1970), which respectively went to No. 25 and No. 57 on the Pop Singles chart. Both songs were written by Robertson.

The third studio album, “Stage Fright,” followed on August 17, 1970. It peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard 200 and No. 6 in Canada and was certified gold by RIAA. The only single, “Time to Kill,” rose to No. 77 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 45 on the Canadian Singles chart.

Robertson went on to record with The Band for the releases “Cahoots” (1971, #21 US), “Moondog Matinee” (1973, #28 US), “Northern Lights - Southern Cross” (1975, #26 US) and “Islands” (1977, #64 US) as well as the live album “Rock of Ages” (1972, #6 US, #4 Canada) before the group disbanded in 1976 because of the stress from sixteen years of touring. The Band performed their farewell concert on November 25, 1976, at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, California. The concert was directed and filmed by Martin Scorsese and the concert film documentary “The Last Waltz,” which Robertson also produced, was released in 1978. The film went on to be heralded as one of the greatest concert films ever made despite being criticized for its focus on Robertson.

After The Band's breakup, Robertson produced the Neil Diamond album “Beautiful Noise” in 1976 and Diamond's live double album “Love at the Greek” in 1977. In 1980, he made his feature acting debut alongside Gary Busey and Jodie Foster in the drama “Carny,” which was directed by Robert Kaylor. He also produced and composed part of the score for the film. The same year, he also served as a music arranger on Scorsese's movie “Ranging Bull.” Robertson then served as a music producer on “The King of Comedy” (1983) and composed score and wrote the song “Don't Tell Me Nothin'” for the film “The Color of Money” (1986), both of which Scorsese directed.

Robertson released his self titled solo debut album, “Robbie Robertson,” on October 27, 1987, under Geffen Records. The album, which he co-produced with Canadian producer Daniel Lanois, featured contributions from Peter Gabriel and U2 and peaked at No. 38 on the Billboard 200 and the U.K. Albums Charts. It went gold in the U.S. and the U.K. and double platinum in Canada. “Robbie Robertson” generated three hit singles with “Showdown at Big Sky,” “Sweet Fire of Love” and “Somewhere Down the Crazy River,” which peaked at No. 2, No. 7 and No. 24 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks, respectively, with the latter also reaching No. 15 on the U.K. Singles Charts.

Robertson's second solo album, “Storyville,” followed on September 30, 1991. It peaked at No. 69 on the Billboard 200. The single “What About Now” went to No. 15 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks and No. 28 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks, while “Go Back to Your Woods” peaked at No. 32 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks. Also in 1991, he contributed the song “Breakin' the Rules” to the soundtrack of the Wim Wander film “Until the End of the World.”

In 1994, Robertson recorded “Music for The Native Americans,” which he produced with Toby Gendron for the soundtrack of the television documentary film “The Native Americans,” and wrote music for the comedy film “Jimmy Hollywood,” which was written and directed by Barry Levinson and starred Joe Pesci and Christian Slater. He also served as a music consultant on Scorsese's “Casino” (1995), executive soundtrack producer for Jon Turteltaub's “Phenomenon” (1996) and creative music consultant on Bronwen Hughes' “Forces of Nature” (1999). He then contributed songs to the Oliver Stone film “Any Given Sunday” (1999) and returned to acting with the supporting role of Roger in “The Crossing Guard” (1995), a 1995 independent film written, directed and produced by Sean Penn. He next narrated the films “Dakota Exile” (1996, TV) and “Wolves” (1999). Robertson also starred in the TV documentary “Robbie Robertson: Going Home” (Disney Channel, 1995), from which he received Emmy nominations for Outstanding Individual Achievement - Cultural Programming and Outstanding Individual Achievement in Music and Lyrics for the song “Pray.” He released the album “Contact from the Underworld of Redboy,” which marked his next album to be inspired by Native American music, in 1998 under Capitol Records.

Entering the new millennium, Robertson joined Dreaworks Records as a creative executive. He also wrote and performed the song “Unbound” for the Michael Radford helmed film “Dancing at the Blue Iguana” (2000), served as executive music producer on Scorsese's “Gangs of New York” (2002), wrote and performed the songs “Peyote Healing” and “Making Noise” for Chris Eyre's “Skins” (2002), co-produced or executive produced “Jenifa” (2004), a Japanese fantasy film directed by Kenki Saegusa, and wrote the original song “Shine Your Light” for the Jay Russell film “Ladder 49” (2004), from which he was nominated for a Golden Satellite in the category of Best Original Song. He was reunited with his good friend, Scorsese, for the films “The Departed” (2006) and “Shutter Island” (2010), where he served as music producer and music supervisor, respectively. Robertson also made a rare appearance on stage and played briefly at Eric Clapton's “Crossroads Guitar Festival” in Bridgeview, Illinois, in July 2007.


Awards:

  • Governor General's Award: Lifetime Artistic Achievement, 2006

  • DVD Premiere: Best Audio Commentary, Library Release, “The Last Waltz,” 2003

  • National Academy of Songwriters: Lifetime Achievement Award, 1997

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