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Robbie Robertson Looks Backward and Forward With Film, Music

The Band fused rock, blues, folk and gospel to create an authentically American sound. They hewed their complex sound backing Bob Dylan when he first went electric.

Composed of drummer Levon Helm, bassist Rick Danko, keyboardist Richard Manuel, multi-instrumentalist Garth Hudson and Robertson, The Band’s signature songs include “The Weight,” ”Up on Cripple Creek” and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.”

The Band’s rustic music crossed generational lines at a time when the country was in turmoil and divisive. Robertson is still in a little awe of what his group managed to do

“Nobody was writing songs like that. Nobody was making music that sounded like that,” he said. “It was totally against the grain and it ended up having a profound effect on the course of rock ‘n’ roll and music.”

Drugs and dissension soon took their toll, warping the tight musicianship of the members. “For the most part, we were playing to one another and we were communicating with one another. And if somebody is on a different wavelength in that communication, you can’t connect,” said Robertson.

The Band broke up in 1976, going out with a bang in a memorable, starry concert finale that was turned into the film “The Last Waltz,” directed by Scorsese. Robertson said the idea was to celebrate the band and let all its members take a breather.

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