Robbie Robertson

By Richardson, Derk | Acoustic Guitar, September 2011 | Go to article overview

Robbie Robertson


Richardson, Derk, Acoustic Guitar


The legendary guitarist opens up about the Band, collaborating with Eric Clapton, and his collection of vintage Martins.

On November 25, 1976, one of the most remarkable concerts in rock history took place at Winterland in San Francisco, California. "The Last Waltz" included performances by Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, Neil Young, Hric Clapton, Muddy Waters, Van Morrison, Dr. John, and others, Attendees were treated to a catered Thanksgiving dinner. And even more notably, the unprecedented event, filmed foi posterity by director Martin Scorsese, had been planned and promoted as the formal swan song for one of the, most respected groups of the era - the Band.

Robbie Robertson, Levon Helrn, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel, and Garth Hudson recorded one mofe studio album together, 1977s Islands. Over the subsequent three and a half decades, Robertspn, who had been the Band's lead guitarist and primary songwrrter - and who instigated the dissolution-has been more active as a film music composer, consultant, and supervisor (see "Go to the Movies," page 44) than as a recording artist in his own right.

Treasured as a songwriÎer ("The Weight," "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," "Rag Mama Rag," "Up on Cripple Creek," "The Shape f'm in") and revered as a guitarist for his uniquely terse, expressionisric style (Bob Dylan famously called him a "mathematical guitar genius"), the Toronto-born Rpbertson had showcased those talents on only four solo albums ¿before this year: Robbie Robertxon (1987), StoryviUe. (1901), Music for the Native Americans (1994), and Contact from the Underwold of Redboyl (1998). The 2011 release of How to Become Clairvoyant came therefore as something of a surprise.

Even more startling for longtime Robertson watchers is the way the 68-year-old pioneer of Americana addresses his personal musical history in his new songs. He had previously reflected on his family and cultural roots - he was born Jaime Robbie Robertson, July 5, 1943, the son of a Jewish father and Mohawk mother who was raised on the Six Nations Reserva ti on- in such- songs as "Acadian Drifttoood" and "Rags arid Bones" on the Band's Northern Lights-Southern Cross (1975). But on How to Become Clairvoyant's "When the Night Was Young" (with its card sharps and tent-show evangelists on Highway 61, and mentions of Luke the Drifter and Andy Warhol) and "This Is Where I Get Off' (about his decision to leave the Band), he makes poetic reference to the seminal 16 years of his early career. "Straight Down the Une' does it, too," he said in a telephone interview from Village Studios in Los Angeles, California. "All of these things are reflections from back then. None of these are about what happened just yesterday."

"Back then" in this case includes the periods when Robertson, Helm, Danko, Manuel, and Hudson toured with Ronnie Hawkins as the Hawks (1961-64); backed Bob Dylan on his first US "electric" tour (1965-66); holed up with Dylan in the house called Big Pink in West Saugerties, New York, and recorded what became The Basement Tapes (recorded in 1967 but released in 1975); signed to Capitol Records as the Band, after first calling themselves the Crackers (1967); performed at the Woodstock Festival (1969); played in front of 650,000 people at the Summer Jam at Watkins Glen in upstate New York (1973); toured with Dylan again (1974); and went into the studio for the last time as the Band (1977).

How to Become Clairvoyant is also the most guitar-centric album hi Robertson's solo catalog, and not just because it name-checks "Duane," "Stevie Ray," "Jimi James," "Link Wray," "Django," "Elmore James," and others in "Axman." Begun as a collaboration with Eric Clapton, who plays on seven of the 12 tracks, the recording includes significant contributions by pedal steel star Robert Randolph and Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello (plus a rhythm section of Steve Winwood and Marius de Vries on keyboards, Pino Palladino on bass, and Ian Thomas on drums), and more electric soloing and nylon-string fingerpicking from Robertson than he's laid down on all four previous albums combined.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Robbie Robertson
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.