Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award recipient (as a member of the Band) Robbie Robertson was the featured guest for a recent installment of the GRAMMY Museum's An Evening With series. Before an intimate audience at the Museum's Clive Davis Theater, Robertson discussed his seminal work with the Band, meeting and touring with Bob Dylan and his most recent solo album, How To Become Clairvoyant, among other topics.
"When we were making [Music From] Big Pink, [we'd gathered] all of these pieces of music that we got from the side of the road," said Robertson regarding the Band's 1968 debut album. "It was just a natural procedure. When we were writing and working on music, you could just feel that it had years and years of being in a wine keg."
Born in Toronto, Robertson got his career start in 1958 when he teamed with rockabilly artist Ronnie Hawkins' backing band the Hawks. The Hawks — Robertson (vocals, guitar), Rick Danko (bass), Levon Helm (vocals, drums), and Garth Hudson and Richard Manuel (keyboards) — broke away from Hawkins in 1963. The quintet landed the opening slot on Bob Dylan's 1965–1966 world tour, and would rechristen themselves the Band. The Band's debut, 1968's Music From Big Pink, reached No. 30 on the Billboard 200 and is considered a watershed for American Roots music and country-influenced rock. The Band followed in 1969, reaching No. 9 on the Billboard 200 and spawning their highest-charting hit, "Up On Cripple Creek" (No. 25). The Band teamed with Dylan for 1974's Planet Waves, an album featuring 11 Dylan compositions. The album topped the Billboard 200 and spawned the Top 50 hit "On A Night Like This." Two years later, the Band's farewell concert was captured by GRAMMY-winning director Martin Scorsese and the resulting documentary and soundtrack, The Last Waltz, was released in 1978.
Robertson subsequently worked as a composer, composing music and/or producing soundtracks for films such as Raging Bull, Casino, The Color Of Money, and The Departed. He released his first solo album, Robbie Robertson, in 1987. Featuring appearances by Danko and Helm, Peter Gabriel and U2, the album cracked the Top 40 on the Billboard 200 and earned Robertson his first GRAMMY nomination for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Male. Robertson followed with Storyville (1991), Music For The Native Americans (1994) and Contact From The Underworld Of Red Boy (1998).
Along with Scorsese and producer Hal Willner, Robertson received his fourth career GRAMMY nomination in 2003 for Best Compilation Soundtrack Album For A Motion Picture for his work on Gangs Of New York. Music From Big Pink and The Band were inducted into the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame in 1998 and 1999, respectively. The Band was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from The Recording Academy in 2008.
How To Become Clairvoyant, Robertson's fifth solo album, was released in April 2011. Featuring guest appearances by GRAMMY winners Eric Clapton, Tom Morello and Steve Winwood, the album peaked at No. 13 on the Billboard 200, Robertson's highest-charting solo album to date.
Upcoming GRAMMY Museum events include The Drop: Ruthie Foster (Jan. 31) and An Evening With Michelle Phillips from The Mamas And The Papas (Feb. 16).
For more information on the GRAMMY Museum, visit www.grammymuseum.org.