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 Scorsese.
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.
Robertson also 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 City, Utah.
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 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 The River".
In November of 2006, Robertson published his autobiography Testimony, in which he recounts his early days as a musician with Ronnie Hawkins and The Hawks, and his time with The Band.