This week’s post is about a man whose recording career has spanned nearly 5 decades. After making music as part of a group for many years, he began a solo career in the late 80’s, and for that reason, I have brought him into the 80’s music “criminally underrated” fold.
Robbie Robertson was born in Toronto, and started as a musician early in life. His first gig was to team up with Ronnie Hawkins; he then split off along with Levon Helm, Richard Manuel, Rick Danko, and Garth Hudson to form what would eventually be called quite simply, “The Band.” Bob Dylan would prove to be instrumental in reinforcing a very successful 16-year run for The Band.
Robertson went on to explore avenues outside of strictly writing and playing rock music. He ended up producing music for Neil Diamond, and landing a co-starring role in the 1980 movie “Carny.” I think I watched that movie so many times, I could have recited the lines along with it. I remember Robertson’s piercing eyes, feline good looks, and raspy, sexy voice, and just couldn’t get enough of seeing/hearing him back then.
That film served as a jumping off point for Robertson, as he became heavily involved in creating and producing music backdrops for two Martin Scorsese films, “Raging Bull,” and “The King of Comedy.” He scored a third Scorsese film, “The Color of Money,” in 1986. During the early 80’s, when not working on movies, Robertson played guitar on Van Morrison’s song “Wonderful Remark,” worked with Gil Evans, co-wrote with Eric Clapton and Willie Dixon, and served as creative consultant for the Chuck Berry film tribute, “Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll.” In 2003, Robertson was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame.
It was about this time in 1987, that Robbie Robertson began to record his first solo album. Coincidentally, when this was released, I purchased it as my very first CD. It was called “Robbie Robertson,” and had it been a vinyl copy, I would have worn holes in it from playing it so much. I was absolutely enchanted by Robertson’s lyrics, his instrumentation, and, of course, “The Voice.”
After all of his accomplishments, “Why,” you may be asking yourself, “is she featuring Robbie Robertson as ‘criminally underrated?'” Because when I mention his name to folks when talking about music, nine times out of ten, I get a blank look. A man as accomplished as Robbie Robertson deserves instant recognition.
If you haven’t listened to his solo music, there’s no better time than the present to listen and fall in love with an extremely talented man. His lyrics, many of which center on his Aboriginal Canadian roots, paint extraordinary detailed pictures that, along with a rich voice, are guaranteed to mesmerize.
Buy Robbie Robertson music here.
“Showdown At Big Sky” via YouTube user kurdtss:
“American Roulette” via YouTube user bjgeiger:
“Somewhere Down The Crazy River” via YouTube user jrobbierobertson:
“Shine Your Light (Ladder 49)” via YouTube user mptrbo27:
1987 Robbie Robertson (featuring U2, Peter Gabriel)
1994 Music for The Native Americans
1998 Contact from the Underworld of Redboy
Albums with The Band
1968 Music from Big Pink
1969 The Band
1970 Stage Fright
1972 Rock of Ages
1973 Moondog Matinee
1975 Northern Lights – Southern Cross
1978 The Last Waltz
1995 Live at Watkins Glen
Albums with Bob Dylan and The Band
1974 Before the Flood
1974 Planet Waves
1975 The Basement Tapes
1998 The Bootleg Series Vol. 4: Bob Dylan Live 1966, The “Royal Albert Hall” Concert