Almanac Music: Vale – Robbie Robertson of The Band: RIP



Like many followers of the music of The Band I was shocked and saddened by the news of Robbie Robertson’s death this morning after a long illness.


Robbie was the guitar player of The Band, one whom Dylan called a ‘mathematician of the fretboard’, and also the main songwriter, responsible for such classics as ‘The Weight’ and ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down’, and many more.


Together with his fellow band members, Richard Manuel, Rick Danko, Levon Helm, and Garth Hudson, The Band created an unique sound all of their own, writing and recording some of the best and most compelling music that reflected the origins of roots music and the American way of life in general, although 4/5ths of them were Canadian.





Their impact was so profound they were accorded a rare honour by Time magazine with a front cover and lead story something rarely achieved by musicians or bands.


I first became away of The Band when they were selected as Dylan’s backing band during his 1966 world tour. Being a big fan of Bob anything linked to him caught my interest and I sought out further details regarding them.


I heard the rumours surrounding Bob and The Band (I’m not certain when they officially became known as The Band) recording in a basement of a pink house in Woodstock as Bob took a rest from touring and recovered from his motorcycle accident. Talk of bootlegs of the sessions abounded for years.





Upon the release of Music From The Big Pink I eagerly bought a copy and played and played that record over and over again. I was totally hooked by the sound, it was completely different to what was being played on the radio at that time, it was riveting.





The album was a mixture of covers and originals with Robbie’s ‘The Weight’ of course the stand out track from the album. The song quickly became the classic it is regarded as today.





It was with the release of their second album The Band with the brown cover that The Band really came into their own, raising the bar to even higher levels with their sound and original songs. And at the forefront was Robbie Robertson with his superb guitar playing and his song writing.





There will be an outpouring of grief and loss with the death of this musical icon and legend over the next few days. There will be many magnificent tributes, and said far better than I could ever do justice, but they will all acknowledge the stellar role he played in a stellar band, and for music in general. His influence will live on.



Thanks for the music, Robbie!




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About Colin Ritchie

Retired teacher who enjoys following the Bombers, listening to music especially Bob Dylan, reading, and swimming.


  1. Ian Hauser says

    Yes, Col, Robbie was one of the greats! I’ll be listening to ‘The Last Waltz’ this afternoon in tribute.

  2. Beautiful summary CR.

    And a nod to the Dylan album, Planet Waves, one of Dylan’s best 70s album in large part because of Robbie and The Band.

    Check this interview from 2017.

  3. Thanks Col. Not many things upset my equilibrium these days, but hearing of Robbie’s death this morning really “rocked” me (appropriate euphemism). What a composing and creative genius. Truly an original who created a sound that built on Dylan but was a whole new genre of smokey, southern country R&B. Those album covers where they all look like they’re out of the 1930’s when every other band is trying to look modern and cool. Just like their sound.
    His guitar playing was always tasteful and refined to my ear, not in your face like a lot of “look at me” big differs. “Stage Fright” was always a favourite song because of Rick Danko’s soulful bass vocal combined with the painful insights into Robbie’s own performing terrors.
    “Now Deep In The Heart Of A Lonely Kid
    Who Suffered So Much For What He Did,
    They Gave This Ploughboy His Fortune And Fame,
    Since That Day He Ain’t Been The Same.
    See The Man With The Stage Fright
    Just Standin’ Up There To Give It All His Might.
    And He Got Caught In The Spotlight,
    But When We Get To The End
    He Wants To Start All Over Again.”
    No-one back then wrote with so much honest introspection. The Band are my favourite of all time, with only the Beatles for competition. Vale’ Robbie.
    “Rock of Ages” double live album with the amazing Allen Toussaint horn arrangements on our CD player today. Rock ‘n Roll Heaven.

  4. Colin Ritchie says

    Thanks IJH, RK, and PB.
    Certainly a sad day. I making my way through their albums at the moment. Onto ‘Stagefright’after having listened to ‘Music From Big Pink’ and ‘The Band’. Fantastic music. And like you PB my all time favourite as well, after Bob of course.
    One of my musical regrets was not to see The Band perform live. I was living in London in 1974 and they were to perform on a bill with CSNY at Wembley but I had decided to return home. After humming and haaring about delaying my return for a couple of weeks I decided to return home expecting I would see them at a later date touring Australia. Sadly, they never did in their original format!

  5. Matt O’Hanlon says

    What a day CR! Robbie Robertson and Rodriguez gone on the same day! The Golden Girl and I listened to the Last Waltz and the magnificent Cold Fact twice each today. As a teenager for most of the 70s these were iconic albums. We tried to see Rodriguez at the Tivoli a few years back but couldn’t get a ticket-hopefully they will play searching for sugarman and the Kat waltz on the box soon!

  6. A fine tribute.
    Robertson was nothing less than a giant of music.
    My favourite tune of his is “Fallen Angel”, off his debut solo record, a tribute to his late bandmate Richard Manuel.
    I will be watching The Last Waltz on my return to Aus.
    Thanks, Col.

  7. DBalassone says

    Thanks Col. Fine tribute. Robbie was one of the greats – through my Dylan infatuation, I was lucky enough to discover The Band in the early 90s and never looked back. Favourite Band song: ‘Daniel and the Sacred Heart’ amongst a shortlist of about twenty or so. His solo albums and his work with Scorsese were also highlights.

    I love what Dylan said about him: ‘The only mathematical guitar genius I’ve ever run into who doesn’t offend my intestinal nervousness with his rear-guard sound.’

  8. Tony Forbes says

    Great tribute Col, Brian did a nice one on RRR on Saturday and played an old interview with the man himself. He had a real twangy Fender Telecaster sound that really suited the songs. Music from BP is my fave.

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