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Robbie Robertson

Robbie Robertson Good Times, Sour Times

On a postage stamp to be issued this June, Robbie Robertson peers into the distance with narrowed eyes. Depending on how you look at him, he’s either contemplative or suspicious. The dichotomy is fitting: the copious literature about his former group, the Band, depicts him alternately as visionary or cool, even a cold, careerist cat.

It’s hard to argue about his artistic vision: even as a teenager playing underage in Yonge Street clubs in the late ’50s and early ’60s, he revolutionized the music of a generation of Canadians with his fierce guitar sound. Soon after, he was instrumental in Bob Dylan’s going electric; with the Band, he blended soul, rock, folk and country in new and influential ways; and more recently he has helped bring mainstream attention to Aboriginal music. On the other hand, his former Band-mates have decried his taking writing credits for most of their songs (drummer Levon Helm still holds a grudge, 35 years after their last recordings), and his solo albums have tended to be heavy on guest stars but short on soul; Band biographer Barney Hoskyns has called him “a yuppie rock ‘n’ roller who’d been in L.A. so long that he’d completely lost touch with his rock ‘n’ roll roots.”

— Story continues at Maclean’s


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