July 5: Singer-songwriter and guitarist Robbie Robertson of The Band is 68-years-old today.

Did you know?
In April 2011, Robbie Robertson released his his first solo album in more than 10 years; a personal and revealing album of his storied career. In On How To Become Clairvoyant, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer addresses publicly for the first time everything from a period of hard living.

Jaime Royal Robertson was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. His earliest exposure to music occured at Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation, where he spent summers with his mother's Mohawk family.

By 1958, Robertson was performing in various groups around Toronto, including Little Caesar and the Consuls, Robbie and the Robots, and Thumper and the Trambones. By 1959 he had met singer Ronnie Hawkins, who led a band called The Hawks. In 1960 Hawkins recorded two early Robertson songs, "Hey Boba Lu" and "Someone Like You" on his Mr. Dynamo LP. Robertson then took over lead guitar with The Hawks and toured often, before splitting from Hawkins in 1963.

After Robertson left Ronnie Hawkins with Levon Helm, Richard Manuel, Rick Danko, and Garth Hudson, the quintet styled themselves Levon and the Hawks, but, after rejecting such tongue-in-cheek names as The Honkies and The Crackers, as well as the Canadian Squires—a name the record label called them and that they immediately hated—they ultimately called themselves The Band.

Bob Dylan hired The Hawks for his famed, controversial tour of 1966, his first wide exposure as an electrified rock and roll performer rather than his earlier acoustic folk sound.

With Bob Dylan
Robertson's distinctive guitar sound was an important part of the music; Dylan famously praised him as "the only mathematical guitar genius I’ve ever run into who doesn’t offend my intestinal nervousness with his rearguard sound." Robertson appears as one of the guitarists on Dylan's 1966 album Blonde on Blonde.

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How To Become ClairvoyantRobbie Robertson

From their first albums in the late 1960s, Music from Big Pink, and The Band, The Band was praised as one of rock music's preeminent groups. Rolling Stone magazine praised The Band and gave its music extensive coverage. Robertson sang only a few songs with The Band, but was the group's primary songwriter, and was in the later years of the Band often seen as the de facto bandleader.

In 1976, The Band began to break up due to the stresses of sixteen years of touring. In the Martin Scorsese film The Last Waltz, The Band played their final concert with the help of their friends and influences, Ronnie Hawkins, Muddy Waters, Dr. John, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Emmylou Harris, Ron Wood, and Ringo Starr.

After The Band, Robertson produced Neil Diamond's albums Beautiful Noise in 1976 and Love at the Greek (live) in 1977. Between 1979 and 1980 Robertson co-starred with Gary Busey and Jodie Foster in Carny. He also co-wrote, produced, and composed source music for the film.

Robertson became one of rock and rolls first artists to seriously become involved in film. For Scorsese's Raging Bull, Robertson created background music and produced source music.

On July 28, 2007, at Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival in Bridgeview, Illinois, Robertson made a rare live appearance. Also in 2007, Robertson accepted an invitation to participate in Goin' Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino (Vanguard). With the group Galactic, Robertson contributed his version of Domino's "Goin' To The River."

In 2008, Robertson and The Band received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2010, Robertson provides music supervision for yet another Scorsese film, Shutter Island.

On May 27, 2011, Robertson was made an Officer of the Order of Canada

Robbie Robertson was ranked 78th in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. The Band has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.

As a songwriter Robertson is responsible for such classics as "The Weight," "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," "Up On Cripple Creek," "Broken Arrow" and "Somewhere Down the Crazy River," and has been inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame.