Robbie Robertson might best be remembered for two things. One is that he was the main songwriter for his influential group, The Band. And two was that he was heavily involved with Bob Dylan and Dylan's music in the 1960s. In fact, The Band was Dylan's backing back during Dylan's monumental performances in the mid-'60s when Dylan fused folk with rock and changed the industry to a great degree.
Robertson, though, made so much more of an impression than just those two items. He was the music supervisor on many of Martin Scorsese's films. Robertson collaborated with artists such as Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, Neil Diamond, Eric Clapton, and Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, among others. People wanted to work with Robertson because he was such a fantastic songwriter, but he was also just a good guy.
His memoir from 2016, Testimony, is a must-read even if you have never listened to Robertson's songs. If you love music, and I am assuming you do as you found this website, Testimony will include some musicians you are fond of. Robertson knew everyone and he influenced most of the musicians he met. Here are three of his songs to get your weekend started.
Three excellent Robbie Robertson songs for your Friday
"The Weight" (1968)
I am not going to reinvent the wheel with this list. Most of Robertson's creations are very good. Some, however, might be among the best songs ever written. "The Weight" is one of them. A single off of the excellent album, Music from Big Pink, starts and stops and always leads to an earworm of a chorus. The song is rather simple - it is about a person who arrives in a town called Nazareth and about the people who live there - but that is the point. And you will be humming it for the next few days.
The song has been covered by lots of artists, including Aretha Franklin. The Band's version got as high as number 63 on Billboard's Hot 100.
"The Shape I'm In" (1970)
"The Shape I'm In," from the album Stage Fright, sounds like something the Rollings Stones might do in their "Honky Tonk Women" era. Or it could be that Mick Jagger and Company released a song that sounded like The Band before "The Shape I'm In" was released. Either way, this is an ultra-fun song to listen to in the early morning.
But while the music hums along, the lyrics are much more serious. The track is about the issues singer Richard Manuel was dealing with. Fun song, but not one to play at a wedding.
"The Night They Drive Old Dixie Down" (1969)
This gem from The Band's self-titled second album is perhaps the best song ever written about the American Civil War by a Canadian songwriter. Singer Levon Helm's soulful voice along with music that feels timeless (and probably is) makes this track about an event that occurred more than 100 years before the song was recorded seem fresh.
And tough this track comes from the point of view of a Confederate solider, this is no pro-South song. Instead, the track talks about how awful the war was and how hard the economic times would be. Funny how some things never change.