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Robbie Robertson dies aged 80: Martin Scorsese and stars pay tribute

Robbie Robertson, guitarist and songwriter for The Band, has died aged 80.

In a statement, Robertson’s manager of 34 years, Jared Levine, said: “Robbie was surrounded by his family at the time of his death, including his wife, Janet, his ex-wife, Dominique, her partner Nicholas, and his children Alexandra, Sebastian, Delphine, and Delphine’s partner Kenny.”

A statement from Robertson’s family read: “Robbie was surrounded by his family at the time of his death, including his wife, Janet, his ex-wife, Dominique, her partner Nicholas, and his children Alexandra, Sebastian, Delphine, and Delphine’s partner Kenny.

“In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made to the Six Nations of the Grand River to support the building of their new cultural centre.”

Robertson, from Canada, is known for his work as lead guitarist for Bob Dylan in the mid-late ‘60s and early-mid ‘70s, as guitarist and songwriter with The Band from their inception until ‘78, and for his career as a solo recording artist.

Robertson's work with The Band was instrumental in creating the Americana music genre and he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Canadian Music Hall of Fame as a member of the Band, and to Canada's Walk of Fame, both with The Band and on his own.

As a songwriter, Robertson’s best known songs include The Weight, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down and Up on Cripple Creek with the Band, and solo hits Broken Arrow and Somewhere Down the Crazy River, among many others.

For his songwriting efforts, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Songwriters.

As a film soundtrack producer and composer, Robertson is known for his collaborations with director Martin Scorsese, which began with the rockumentary film The Last Waltz (1978), Raging Bull (1980), The King of Comedy (1983), Casino (1995), The Departed (2006), The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), The Irishman (2019), and recently, Killers of the Flower Moon (2023).

In an interview with Headliner about writing the score for The Irishman, he described his enduring relationship with Scorsese, admitting that despite his numerous film scoring credits with the director, he originally “wasn't that interested in doing movie music, per se. 

"Working with Marty is a completely different experience to what you would think it would be. It’s a trip! It's a very unusual process and movie/music relationship that we have. Even after all these years of working with Marty, It's never been about traditional movie music.”

Scorsese issued a statement on the death of his collaborator and friend:

“Robbie Robertson was one of my closest friends, a constant in my life and my work. I could always go to him as a confidante. A collaborator. An advisor. I tried to be the same for him. Long before we ever met, his music played a central role in my life – me and millions and millions of other people all over this world. The Band’s music, and Robbie’s own later solo music, seemed to come from the deepest place at the heart of this continent, its traditions and tragedies and joys. It goes without saying that he was a giant, that his effect on the art form was profound and lasting. There’s never enough time with anyone you love. And I loved Robbie.”

Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood said: "Such sad news about Robbie Robertson. He was a lovely man, a great friend and will be dearly missed."

Canadian-American singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell said: “Rest in peace Robbie Robertson, legendary lead guitarist of The Band, fellow Canadian, and cherished collaborator. May his legacy and musical harmony resonate for generations to come."

Beatles drummer, Ringo Starr also posted a tribute: “God bless Robbie Robertson, peace and love to all his family.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wrote: “Guitarist. Songwriter. Storyteller. Robbie Robertson was a big part of Canada’s outsized contributions to the arts. I’m thinking of his family, friends, and fans who are mourning his loss. Thank you for the music and the memories, Robbie.”

Canadian singer Bryan Adams posted a photo of Robertson and wrote: "Thanks for the amazing music and the great hangs."

Canadian musician and 24 actor Kiefer Sutherland, wrote: “The loss of Robbie Robertson is heartbreaking. Canada has lost an icon, and music has lost a poet and a scholar.”

American singer-songwriter Neil Diamond also shared a tribute online: “The music world lost a great one with the passing of Robbie Robertson. Keep making that Beautiful Noise in the sky, Robbie. I’ll miss you.”

Stevie van Zandt, a member of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band, said Robertson was a "good friend" and "underrated brilliant guitar player".

American actor and filmmaker Rob Reiner said: “So sorry to hear about Robbie Robertson’s passing. His music felt timeless when he wrote it and remains timeless. Thoughts and love to his family.

Former US President Bill Clinton posted: “Robbie Robertson was a brilliant songwriter, guitarist, and composer whose gifts changed music forever. I’m grateful for all the good memories he gave me – going back to his time in the Hawks when I was a teenager – and for his kindness through the years. I’ll miss him.”