Robbie Robertson is one rock's most influential and legendary figures.
From his early days in Toronto with Ronnie Hawkins & The Hawks; through tours with Bob Dylan and life on the road with The Band; to his solo albums and scores for Hollywood movies, Robertson has been at the epicentre of the music scene since the late 1950s.
The son of a Mohawk mother and Jewish father, Robertson grew up in Toronto and spent summers on the Six Nations Reservation outside Brantford, Ontario. He was learning guitar by the age of six, and in his teens he was active in various local bands such as Little Caesar & The Consoles.
Robertson hooked up with rockabilly star Ronnie Hawkins and became a member of The Hawks. His bluesy rock guitar style helped define their distinctive sound.
When Bob Dylan `went electric' during his 1965-66 world tour, Robertson was in the backup group. Other members of The Hawks joined the tour, forming the unit that would eventually be known as The Band.
Music From Big Pink, The Band's first release, was issued in 1968. A year later, The Band performed at Woodstock. A string of albums followed, all of them hugely successful as well as ground-breaking. The Band continued to play live performances until 1976. The Last Waltz a feature-length documentary of the final tour was produced by Martin ScWaltzorsese.
Robertson began an extended association with Scorsese. He scored the soundtracks for 1979's Carney (in which he also starred) and composed the score for Raging Bull (1980). Other Scorsese collaborations included King of Comedy (1983) and The Color of Money (1986).
Robertson's first self-titled solo album was produced by Canadian Daniel Lanois and released in 1987. Storyville, his second solo album, followed in 1991.
Returning to his roots, Robertson produced Music For The Native Americans, and was featured in Robbie Robertson: Making A Noise, a PBS special that explored the Native American musical heartland.
Most recently, he served as music supervisor on Scorsese's Gangs Of New York.
Today, Robertson is a creative executive at DreamWorks Records where he develops new musical talent, including Canadian artist Nelly Furtado.
In 1995, in Rome, Robertson headlined an annual Labor Day concert
festival with support acts Andrea Bocelli, Elvis Costello, and
Radiohead. In 1996, Executive soundtrack producer Robertson heard a demo
of Change The World and sent it to Clapton as a suggestion for the
soundtrack to Phenomenon, starring John Travolta. He then enlisted
Babyface to produce the track. Change the World won 1997 Grammy Awards
for Song of the Year and Record of the Year.
In 1997, Robertson received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Songwriters.
In 2000, David Geffen and Mo Ostin convinced Robertson to join
DreamWorks Records as creative executive. Robertson, who persuaded Nelly
Furtado to sign with the company, is actively involved with film
projects and developing new artist talent, including signings of A.i.,
Boomkat, Daniel DeBourg, eastmountainsouth, and
singer-songwriter-pianist Dana Glover.
On February 9, 2002, Robertson performed "Stomp Dance (Unity)" as part
of the Opening Ceremony of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake
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.
Robbie Robertson's star on Canada's Walk of Fame.
In 2003, Robertson was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame.
In 2006, Robertson recorded with Jerry Lee Lewis and Samuel Bidleman on
Last Man Standing on the track "Twilight". That same year, he received
the Governor General's Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement.
On July 28, 2007, at Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival in
Bridgeview, Illinois, Robertson made a rare appearance on stage and
played briefly. Also in 2007, Robertson accepted an invitation to
participate in Goin' Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino (Vanguard). With the
group Galactic, Robertson contributed his version of Domino's "Goin' To
According to an article in the February 9, 2008 edition of the Winnipeg
Sun, Robertson is said to be working with Eric Clapton on an album of
new material. From Mojo magazine's May 2010 interview, Robertson claimed
he was writing an autobiography.
Scorsese hired Robertson to compose the musical score for his 1980 film Raging Bull, and in the years since the two have been frequent collaborators. Robertson would later work on Scorsese's movies The King of Comedy, The Color of Money, Casino and The Departed, act as executive music director for Gangs of New York, and music supervisor for Shutter Island.