Robbie Robertson, who was an enormously influential guitarist and vocalist with The Band, died this week at 80.
The Band was primarily a Canadian group with Levon Helm the only American. They became well-known for their association with Bob Dylan and for a few years, along with Creedence Clearwater Revival, they helped pull rock music back from the stupidity of the late ‘60’s with the psychedelic era and all that tosh.
They focused much more on the music rather than whatever people were trying to burden it with. CCR came up with classics like Fortunate Son and Proud Mary while The Band had enduring classics like The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, their cover of Bob Dylan’s I Shall Be Released (by the way, you should check out Nina Simone’s unbelievable cover of that song) and, most of all, The Weight.
That song was written 55 years ago and still sounds fresh and new. It has had an enormous impact and artists as disparate as the Staple Singers, Jackie DeShannon and John Denver have covered it.
The Band had a falling out, as so many groups do, with Helm in particular angry because he felt that Robertson took credit for work that he didn’t do, maintaining that the song was a collaborative effort.
The rift lasted for years with Robertson finally visiting Helm on his death bed and the two apparently reconciling.
This video underscores just what a huge impact this song has had, with musicians from around the world collaborating. You’ll see a number of people here, including Robertson, Lukas Nelson (son of Willie) and musicians from Argentina, Japan and Bahrain. You’ll also see an apparently ageless Ringo Starr introducing the video.
It just underscores the immense influence that Robertson and The Band have had and continue to have.
For his final song, Hank Williams recorded I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive and he’s right. We all have to go sometime and Robertson would have passed away eventually of something as we all must.
However, he died from prostate cancer, which is one of the easier cancers to treat, assuming that you catch it early. So if you’re male, please make sure that this is covered on your annual physical. There’s no reason or need for this particular cancer to be terminal.