Robbie Robertson, born Jaime Royal Robertson, is a renowned Canadian musician. He gained recognition as the lead guitarist and songwriter for the Band, and later established himself as a successful solo recording artist.
Robbie Robertson, born Jaime Royal Robertson on July 5, 1943, is a Canadian musician, songwriter, and producer. He was born in Toronto, Canada, and was raised in the Mohawk community of Six Nations reserve. Robertson’s mother was Mohawk and his father was Jewish. He grew up listening to traditional Native American music, country music, and rock and roll. At the age of 9, he learned to play guitar and began writing songs.
During Robbertson’s childhood, the family lived in different neighborhoods in Toronto, switching homes several times. Robertson’s mother often took him to visit her family on the Six Nations Reserve, where he received guitar lessons from family members, particularly his older cousin Herb Myke. Listening to the radio, Robertson developed an interest in rock ‘n’ roll and R&B, tuning in to disc jockey George “Hound Dog” Lorenz’s rock ‘n’ roll show on WKBW in Buffalo, New York and staying up late to catch John R.’s all-night blues show on WLAC, a clear-channel station based in Nashville, Tennessee.
When Robertson was still in his early teenage years, his parents separated, and his mother disclosed to him that his biological father was not James, but a Jewish man named Alexander David Klegerman whom she had met while working at the Coro factory.
Klegerman became a professional gambler and was later killed in a hit-and-run accident on the Queen Elizabeth Way. At the time of his death, Robertson’s mother was with him while James Robertson was serving in the Canadian Army stationed in Newfoundland. After sharing the news with Robertson, his mother arranged for him to meet his paternal uncles Morris (Morrie) and Nathan (Natie) Klegerman.
In the early 1960s, Robertson started playing guitar for Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks, a rockabilly band based in Arkansas. After a few years, Robertson and other members of the band left to form their own group, which eventually became known as The Band. The Band’s unique blend of rock, folk, country, and blues music was influential in shaping the sound of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Robertson’s songwriting skills were a major factor in The Band’s success. He wrote many of their most famous songs, including “The Weight,” “Up on Cripple Creek,” and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” He also co-wrote “This Wheel’s On Fire” with Bob Dylan. Robertson’s guitar playing was also a key component of The Band’s sound, with his distinctive riffs and solos becoming synonymous with the band’s style.
After The Band disbanded in 1976, Robertson continued to work as a solo artist and producer. He released his first solo album, “Robbie Robertson,” in 1987, which featured collaborations with many notable musicians, including U2 and Peter Gabriel. He also composed music for several films, including “The Color of Money” and “The Departed.”
In 2019, Robertson released “Sinematic,” his first album in eight years. The album features collaborations with artists such as Van Morrison and Glen Hansard, and was praised for its cinematic quality and storytelling.
After the passing of Richard Manuel in 1986, Rick Danko in 1999, and Levon Helm in 2012, Robertson is now one of the only two surviving original members of the Band, along with Garth Hudson.
Robertson’s contribution to the Band played a pivotal role in creating the Americana music genre. His exceptional work with the Band earned him a place in both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, both as a member of the Band and on his own. He is also recognized in Canada’s Walk of Fame. Robertson’s musical talent earned him a spot on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 100 greatest guitarists, ranking at 59.
Robertson’s songwriting abilities are celebrated, having written hits such as “The Weight”, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”, and “Up on Cripple Creek” for the Band, as well as his solo hits “Broken Arrow” and “Somewhere Down the Crazy River”. He was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame and was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Songwriters.
As a film composer and soundtrack producer, Robertson is most notable for his collaborations with director Martin Scorsese. Their partnership started with the rockumentary film The Last Waltz in 1978, and continued through several dramatic films, including Raging Bull (1980), The King of Comedy (1983), Casino (1995), The Departed (2006), The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), and The Irishman (2019). Robertson has also worked on numerous other film and television soundtracks.
As of 2023, Robbie Robertson’s net worth is estimated to be around $50 million. This includes income from his music career, as well as from his work as a film composer and producer.