Musician Robbie Robertson (THE CANADIAN PRESS / Fred Chartrand)

Robbie Robertson inducted into Hall of Fame but did he really write those songs

The songs Robertson is known for may have been written his band mates without attribution or compensation

robbie robertson 400 Robbie Robertson inducted into Hall of Fame but did he really write those songs photo

Musician Robbie Robertson (THE CANADIAN PRESS / Fred Chartrand)

“The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.” Hunter S. Thompson

Robbie Robertson was recently Robertson inducted into Songwriters Hall of Fame. Robertson’s songwriting fame comes mainly from his work with The Band.

Update – Rock musician Levon Helm passes away

 

Remembering Levon Helm

We loved The Band and their music. Guitarist Robbie Robertson is credited with writing most of their songs but according to band-mate Levon Helm Robertson stole them.

Before The Band, Robertson wrote no songs of any enduring interest.  

Most of the songs that made The Band famous were influenced or written by Bob Dylan, Richard Manuel, Garth Hudson and Levon Helm, although Robertson claimed ownership in most cases.

The Band petered out as a creative force by 1972 largely due to their self-admitted excesses with alcohol and drugs. The Band broke up with The Last Waltz filming in 1976.

Robbie Robertson went on to a lucrative career writing movie scores for his friend and director Martin Scorsese. His solo CDs in the past few decades are highly forgettable, with weak melodies and even weaker lyrics.

While it’s not unusual for artists to have a short term flash in the pan with creativity, the story with The Band and Robertson goes deeper.

The Band were known for fusing Southern American, swamp rock and an oddball lyric sensibility.  The oddball lyricism and story telling was learned in West Saugerties and Bearsville, New York while they hunkered down with Bob Dylan in 1967 and 1968.

Listen to The Basement Tapes which were recorded from those freewheeling sessions and you can hear Music From the Big Pink and some of their early and best writing.  Dylan taught them how to construct a story from folk myths and American folk roots.

Those weren’t Robbie Robertson’s roots. He’s a Canadian with native and Jewish ancestry.

The songs like The Weight, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, and Up on Cripple Creek came from Levon Helm. That’s Levon’s culture and history going down, not Robbie Robertson.

The closest Robertson comes to authenticity is Acadian Driftwood and even then the real impact of the song is Cajun not Acadian, again from Levon Helm.

“Helm claims the opposite in his 1993 autobiography, “This Wheel’s On Fire,” in which he claims that Robertson ripped off his bandmates by claiming the lion’s share of songwriting credits in The Band (he could not be reached for an interview): “I even confronted Robbie over this issue during this era,” Helm wrote. “… I cautioned that most so-called business moves had [destroyed] a lot of great bands and killed off whatever music was left in them. I told Robbie that The Band was supposed to be partners … Well, it never quite worked out that way. We stayed in the divide and conquer mode.” Greg Kot, Chicago Tribune

Robertson responded in Kott’s article “Who did the work? I tried, I begged Levon to write songs or help me write songs — all the guys. I always encouraged everybody to write. You can’t make somebody do what they don’t want to do or can’t do, and he’s not a songwriter. With The Band he started to write one song, `Strawberry Wine,’ the whole time and couldn’t finish it, and I helped him finish it. And there were some other songs that I wrote and he was there when I was writing them, and just because he was being supportive, I gave him credit on a couple of songs. He didn’t write one note, one word, nothing. What he’s saying now is the result of somebody thinking about their financial problems. I wrote these songs and then 20 or 30 years later somebody comes back and says he wrote the songs? It never came up back then, and it’s preposterous that it’s coming up now.” Greg Kot.

We’ll never know if Robertson wrote those songs by himself or just appropriated them from his band mates.

The Band weren’t managed as well as John Lennon and Paul McCartney who split their songwriting credits no matter who wrote the song.

Personally, I believe he did and broke faith with The Band when they promised to form a band of equals with no one taking centre stage.

Apart from the legalisms, Robertson didn’t write those songs in a vacuum but seems to be keeping the credit all for himself.

Or course, awards and award shows are the BS of life.

The songs were great and we love them.

For more on Big Pink, see Richard Goldstein’s ‘Big Pink’ Is Just a Home in Saugerties

46 thoughts on “Robbie Robertson inducted into Hall of Fame but did he really write those songs”

  1. Sorry, but first look at the credits on Band albums. Songs co-written were credited. Levon Helm has released six solo albums. On those six albums there’s like two songs he co-wrote and one of those was a traditional song that was adapted and arranged. Playing on a song, contributing to an arrangement, is not writing.

  2. Most writers who deem their opinions worthy enough to publish try to do at least a modicum of research before they mouth off. You quote a newspaper article that quotes Levon Helm’s book. Nothing like striving for balance. Let’s run though your drivel.

    1) Robertson was hired by Ronnie Hawkins because RR had a penchant for writing songs. He don’t Love you and The Stones I Throw are great examples of pre-Band writing.

    2)Levon Helm was not present at the Basement Tapes. He had quit the Dylan tour and didn’t return until the Fall of 67. If as you say they all learned how to write from Dylan, where did Levon pick it up?

    3) The song credits on Music From Big Pink are properly assigned and don’t all go to RR. Did Richard Manuel rip everyone off when he “claimed” to write In A Station or We Can Talk? Of course not. The whole group knew Richard had written those songs and deserved credit for them. How about Rick Danko with This Wheel’s On Fire”? Another rip-off?
    How about Dylan? Didn’t 4/5 of the Band add their distinctive talents to the Basement Tapes songs? Dylan shared credit with Richard Manuel and Rick Danko in what emerged from the same clubhouse atmosphere. Why no gnashing of teeth there?

    4) Robertson spent a lot of time in the south and read tons of southern literature. He soaked up all kinds of images and put words and chords together to bring those images to life. It is ridiculous to say someone can only write a song about the Civil War if they are from the south. Using your thought process, you would argue RR had to write Acadian Driftwood since half of the song is Canadian and half is cajun–which Levon most assuredly is not.

    5) If you investigate the contemporaneous literature, you will see that the members of the Band looked to RR as their main songwriter. No one said anything about how the song writing credits were distributed. This is an issue that came up first 15 years after the fact when the Band reformed without RR. and did not see print for another ten years.

    6) Great example of the Beatles. Weren’t George Harrison and Ringo Starr in the group? They received some publishing credits for LM songs but not equal shares.

    7) Whose self admitted alcohol and drug problems caused the creative “petering out”? Did some members not have alcohol and drug problems? How did the clean ones view the not-so-clean ones? Was there a breaking of the brotherhood bond when the clean ones kept things together and the not so clean ones didn’t? Gee, think if you had looked into that angle.

    8) To smugly dismiss RR’s output since The Last Waltz tells me you are hopelessly partisan on this issue and should perhaps pull your article.

  3. I agree this article should be pulled…. I have never read so much BS in my life. Where do you get your “facts” from? Robbie Robertson wrote these songs and probably a lot of Dylan’s songs he never received credit for. Before you write crap do a little research. I am surprised there isn’t a slander suit against you.

  4. Read This Wheel’s on Fire, then look at the songwriting credits before and after their Dylan exposure. It pretty well peters out by the early 1970s. Movie scores aren’t songs and none of what Robbie Robertson has written since then is worth downloading, let alone purchasing.

  5. Oh come on……………..Obviously you know nothing about Canadian history and culture, Acadians and Cajuns, and your knowledge of Robbie Robertson and The Band is nonexistent.

    Cajun is simply the southern American pronunciation of Acadian, the name of the Canadian French speaking group the song was written about. The Acadians were deported from maritime Canada (mainly Nova Scotia) by the British during the French and Indian Wars of the eighteenth century, and many were transported to Lousisiana where their name was pronounced “Cajun”.

    Song writing credit was given wherever it was due in the Band’s time, and there is simply no basis for stating that songs listed as having been written by Robbie Robertson were actually written by Levon Helm, except that is for Helm’s saying so.

    The second part of “Acadian Driftwood” is sung in French – Canadian Acadian dialect at that, and where Levon Helm would have picked that up, I don’t know.

    This article should be removed as a piece of scurrilous and poorly researched crud.

  6. Trying to trash Robbie Robertson with this article is very poor judgement based on one man’s regrets and unsubstantiated claims. The facts have been pointed out by many comments posted and Robbie Robertson’s solo work is great and that alone would make Robbie well recognized in the music industry.

  7. While everyone bitches over who REALLY wrote those songs, let’s look at another accusation leveled by Levon in the book, i.e. that the rockamentary, “The Last Waltz”, which I own and have watched many times, CLEARLY spotlights Robertson more than the others, which I assumed at the first viewing was due to Scorcese’s “roommate in college” connection with Robertson. The spoltlight on Roberston is clear and convincing evidence that Scorcese intended that Robertson be the “star” of the movie and the front man for the group. I also noticed something else: Without exception, when each guest finished performing, it was LEVON they immediately approached and thanked/shook hands with, and NOT Mr. Robertson. Eric Clapton made Robertson’s guitar-playing prowess look amateurish, and I suppose Robertson claiming solo writing credit for all the songs was an attempt to make him into something he is not, and never has been: A credible musician and singer.

  8. All these comments are wonderful, interesting but none of us were there. Nor was Robbie Robertson’s daughter. So her letter is worth zip.

    Levon, Robbie, Rick, Garth and Richard were there. Robbie says he wrote the songs. Levon said they wrote them in collaboration.

    Levon said, in his autobiography, that The Band was about no one person – one for all and all for one. No one suspected Robbie was copyrighting them. according to Levon. The music business is full of sharks and musicians have been ripped off regularly. This story rings true.

  9. Non of us were there, that’s right!
    But how come – as someone points out – didn’t the other members of The Band do anything about this, during a career that ran over many years??
    Personally, I believe this is a case where people – many years after – believe being part of the arrangement etc should entitle them to a songwriting credit, but of course I don’t know exactly how the band came up with each song.
    That RR is the main architect behind the songs that he is credited for (alone) I believe is very likely.
    And what’s that about his solo cd:s not worth buying? I only have the fist two, but there are amazing songs on both of them (“Broken Arrow”, i.e., became a hit for Rod Stewart). On the Band’s albums after RR left (and LH’s – rest in peace, you fantastic musician – solo albums) there aren’t many original songs.

  10. …also, on RR’s solo albums: I guess RR could have easily copied his stuff from The Band era, but he wanted to do something new, so you shouldn’t really compare them. C’mon, a “The Weight no 2″ – released solo in the end of the 80:s – wouldn’t have been fresh.

  11. Not uncommon for artists to product their most creative work when they are younger. The Band peaked creatively withing 3 years with “Stage Fright.” The first album is the easiest since bands have 10 years of road songs saved up – their very best material. The next two albums were getting progressively better. By the 4th album they were scrapping the bottom of the barrel. Success had allowed them to over-indulge in drugs and alcohol, which Levon admitted in his autobiography. Much of The Band’s appeal came retrospectively, especially after “The Last Waltz” which presented their material at its best. In the end it’s he said / he said.

  12. I thought about not commenting on this article but I think there are a few things worth noting about Robbie Robertson’s solo career that Mr. Pate does not appear to be informed on.

    Robbie Robertson’s self-titled solo album was 77th on Rolling Stones 100 best albums of the 80′s
    http://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/100-best-albums-of-the-eighties-20110418/robbie-robertson-robbie-robertson-19691231

    His latest effort is 10th on Rolling Stones 50 best albums of 2011
    http://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/50-best-albums-of-2011-20111207/robbie-robertson-how-to-become-clairvoyant-19691231

    He co-wrote Eric Clapton’s song It’s in the Way that you Use it.

    His album Storyville was nominated for two Grammies.

    No matter how you feel about his music personally, I think there is enough evidence to decide unequivocally that he is an accomplished song-writer and creative force in his own right.

  13. He is OK but nothing he did compares with the best of his work with The Band and he shoulda given his band members their share. Thanks for your comment and the links.

  14. Well yes, Stephen, I agree that the success of The Band was to a large extent due to the way the whole group treated the songs that (I believe) Robertson wrote, but still he wrote those songs, and I’m not so familiar with how royalties worked in the US in 40 years ago to say if there was a way for RR to be credited as the sole song-writer AND at the same time give bart of the royalties for the songs to the others by adding them as arrangers of the songs.

    An amateur songwriter myself, I belong to a Scandinavian rights association, and I believe that (at most) 17% of the songwriting royalties for a song can be given to the ones that arrange it.

    There are of course bands – mort notably U2 – that from the beginning have split the songwriting credits four the music four ways regardless of who came up with the song, but I feel that U2 songs are often created very much during studio jamming, more so than Band songs did.

  15. Sorry for typos: “PART of the royalties…” and “MOST notably…”. A bit hung over here… :)

    And btw, Storyville (RR’s second solo album) is really good, and some stuff from his solo career I personally find fantastic. It’s not The Band, and why should it be? It’s solo stuff.

    (And he also wrote the beautiful “Nobody’s Child” with and for Maria McKee)

  16. Thanks Jean for the comment all the way from Scandinavia. I have a friend hiding out in Norway and they say my mother was Norse (Norman French to the English South-West Coast to Newfoundland) so we’re connected.

    Royalties can be split anyway the copyright holder wishes them to be split. I didn’t know that about U2 but it makes sense. Bono has enough of a swelled head and The Edge has his own ego but even-Stephen on the money can keep the love alive. Send us a link to your music.

    The Band’s manager Albert Grossman was a master at deals that got him more than 50% of the royalties. Bob Dylan fought with Grossman and eventually got control back for his songs.

    In his autobiography, Levon said The Band was supposed to be all-for-one and one-for-all. Robbie Robertson obviously feels differently. The odd thing about life is that you can cheat and gouge your fellow man all you want, but in the end we all met Death the great leveler. Better to be fair now in my opinion.

  17. Still, Stephen, if we where in a band and I was hitting the bars and shooting 8-ball while you were sweating in your room, writing The Weight and The Night they Drove Old Dixie Down, one would imagine you would be a bit reluctant to hand me half of the songwriting royalties (and honour), no matter how brilliant my singing and playing on the recording was.

    If I wrote The Weight and you wrote The Night… I guess we might happily agree to put (Stephen-Jean) as the songwriting team for both (like Lennon-McCartney did).

  18. Not to argue with you – Lennon and McCartney were one of the greatest teams and notwithstanding who wrote the song it was always “Lennon and McCartney”. Even “Yesterday” which Paul wrote by himself was L&M and later Yoko wouldn’t change that no matter what Paul wanted. In actuality, a band is a group of people. Paul bounced “Yesterday” off the group many times before he put the final lyrics to the song. In the end, it’s he said he said and I’ll believe Levon simply because he is the more authentic voice on the songs. “The Weight” was about a joint band experience when long haired musicians met the good Pennsylvania Dutch people of Nazareth who gave them the cold should on the surface. You have to go the Nazareth and feel the chill to understand. I had a girl friend in the area back in 1966 and it was weird how they disliked me for bell bottom hounds-tooth trousers. Cheers.

  19. RR read a lout about the South, and I guess talked with Helm about it also.
    Having experienced something first hand is in no way a guarantee that you can create great music and/or lyrics about it yourself. Sometimes it can be better to have a more mythological approach, like RR probably did.
    Remember, Kafka who wrote “Amerika” never went to America.

  20. Check yout this obituary, that is very balanced in my opinion:

    http://blogs.villagevoice.com/music/2012/04/levon_helm_obituary.php

    “Things were not all storybook. Levon did himself no favors with his rancorous memoir from 2000 or his ridiculous claims (30 fucking years later!) that he and the other boys helped to write those dang songs, too. Like a lot of folks, I reckon, I breathed a sigh of relief when I heard that Mr. Robertson had visited Levon in the hospital this week.”

  21. Thanks for the link. Nice remembrance in The Village Voice but too much drama versus fact.

    The Band wasn’t really that popular in the beginning – more of a cult following. It was “The Last Waltz” movie that put them into the spotlight and years of hearing “The Weight” which only made it to #8 on the charts when it was released. By the time they were almost creatively exhausted with “Stage Fright” the following had grown enough to give them a #5 album. The Band was like great wine that aged better than opened young.

    Peter Gerstenzang dismisses the 80s. Levon was one hell of an actor which went strong from 1978 to 1983 but still had an acting thing in the 1990s. The reunion bands were a sort of flat but the Cate Brothers gigs were awesome. By now we’re all sick of RR’s up stroke lead parts and mood music. Nobody cites RR as their guitar god. Tons of drummers learned from Levon.

    I believe Levon’s claim – Robbie Robertson couldn’t have done it without Levon. It was not his world.

    The autobiography was very telling. Everyone was running around in the rock press praising the “love affair” of “The Last Waltz”. After the book, it was easy to see Levon was right that Robbie Robertson was a grand-stander who couldn’t sing. As for Robbie being the sober one, he was stoned in the interviews. So much BS churned out by the millionaire RR and his Hollywood friends.

    The love of money is the root of all evil. Robbie loved the money more than The Band which was supposed to be a group ethic.

    U2 have a group ethic. Levon thought he was getting that but got snookered.

    Barry Sloan wrote as a comment on the VV article – “I have always thought that if Levon filled Robbie’s head with the stories, characters, and “taste and feel” of this environment and mileau, then it might be said that he had participated in the writing of the songs. Technically you may be correct and accurate as to the “letter” of the ethics involved, but as a matter of “spirit” I think that you lose the larger picture. It is a murky issue, and to call his claim “ridiculous” is to diminish the validity of the claim, whether you agree with him or not. It is also an open question as to whether Robbie Robertson would have taken such a tack had he not come under the influence of the (some believe to be ogre-ish) Albert Grossman. I have no doubt that Robbie had the most business acumen of any member of the Band, and I also do not dispute Robbie’s son’s claim (during a discussion with me on Facebook) that Robbie lent much money to every other member of the Band, but for him to become a millionaire while two other members had to declare bankruptcy somehow leaves a bad taste in my mouth.” VillageVoice

  22. “I have always thought that if Levon filled Robbie’s head with the stories, characters, and “taste and feel” of this environment and mileau, then it might be said that he had participated in the writing of the songs.”

    Well, maybe, but in a traditional sence of songwriting I would say the anwers is no. Noone disputes the fact that The Band war, err, a band – but if we look at the songwriting I still believe that by any traditional. intelligible understanding of what “songwriting” means RR wrote those songs.
    And most of their songs feel like traditional “songwriter’s songs” – of course then arranged by the band. I we compare to U2, I don’t think Bono och The Edge would have come up with a song like that if it was not boult through jamming och soundchecks (that I believe U2 always record, in case they fins a good groove).

  23. In actuality much of what U2 created owes its existence to producer Daniel Lanois, as do two of Dylan’s albums. Creativity is never a singular process. Producers often take raw material and turn it into something that is worth recording.

    I want to state that it is no my intention to take anything away from Robbie Robertson who is a great artist in his own right. Sometimes in these comment discussion, we take one side or the other and I’m not immune to that.

    As I said before, Robbie Robertson says he wrote them by himself. Levon wrote a book and got it published refuting that. On the balance of probabilities, in my mind, I agree with Levon Helm. He never retracted what he said despite strong criticism from many people.

  24. Well yes, I agree that creativity is a complex process, and I read a book about U2 where they actually talked about songwriting credits, because apparently (and not surprisingly) they have been an issue with Lanois and Eno. Someone in the book (which I believe is authorized) said that U2:s manager for a long time did not accept adding Eno and Lanois as songwriters, cause that could actually make them earn more than the band and beacuse it was the band that still were the ones who in the end decided what the songs should sound like and it was in their name that they are released. But at least on the last album Eno and Lanois do share some credits.

    I guess it also depends on the tradition and who is involved: If you take the same (imaginary) creative process, one group of people could end up sharing the songwriting credits and the other one not. Still, I do think RR’s songwriting was old school in the sense that RR presented pretty finished songs – but that is my guess. And the thing is there is really no explanation why a group such as The Band should remain quiet for 20-30 years about one member “stealing” songwriting credits….

  25. And this is what Rick Danko said in an interview. Does not necessarily mean that RD did not have any problems with it before, but it doesn’t exactly sound like he things he co-wrote “The Weight” either…:

    Q.
    There are other issues related to songwriting, in disputes you’ve had with Robbie Robertson over sharing credit for much of the Band’s repertoire.

    A.
    I don’t have a problem with any of it, you know? I’m a very thankful person. Whatever publishing I’ve shared with people, whatever songwriting credits I’ve shared and whatever payments I’ve gotten, I’m thankful. I could have ended up having to get a real job. I’m thankful for what the Band has represented and what the Band has done. I’m not gonna sit here and tear the Band apart.

  26. Let’s not forget that a song is not just the lyrics. If RR did write most of the lyrics for the songs, do you think that the music just magically appeared? Of course not! What Levon tried to explain in his book is that all of the members should be credited with writing the song, including the music. The quietist of the band members was Garth and he was most likely the most gifted musically. Where does RR credit Garth with any song writing? Answer: nowhere. Does anyone think that the Band’s songs would have existed without Garth’s contributions? Or without the others’ musical (and lyrics) contributions? This is what Levon wanted the world to know, and this is why Levon was critical about RR hogging the song writing credits and monetary windfall.

  27. Of course I can a understand that, but the obvious question is of course why the rest of the band, all full-time professional musicians, would let this go on for 10 years… Are there any indications in any interview while RR was in the band that the others didn’t see him as the principal songwriter?
    I’ve seen people that seem to know 100 times more than me about The Band say that interviews from the era show that the others saw RR as the main songwriter, but maybe they are wrong…

  28. Apparently the others never thought about it much, and didn’t pursue the matter. Don’t forget that RR was being influenced by Grossman who knew the ins and outs about songwriting credits and residuals and surely instructed RR on how to get full credit. Levon probably had a slightly better understanding of this, but he also probably did not pursue it further until later on when he finally realized that RR was shafting the others. It was too late to do anything about the misjustice, and so the only other way to confront it was to express his feelings in his book. These are just my opinions about your question.

  29. Well, yes, I’m just guessing here also, but my point is that these are complex matters, and I find it hard to simply trust what one part claims in a book 30 years or so after it happened. The band got their living from being in The Band – it was their occupation – and that the four others wouldn’t have stood up as one man after the first record if there was something really fishy I don’t find that believable. Songwriting credits aren’t THAT complex.

    What I find believable – and similar things have happened in other bands – is that long after the band’s career, someone, in hindsight, starts thinking that their contribution – may it be a drumbeat or a bassline or an organ intro – should have been counted as songwriting, especially if you are in finacial trouble and you hear the song played on radio.

    But I guess there really are no definite way to decide what qualifies as songwriting, well other than go to court.

    As someone, who claims to be a musician and producer, in the U2 discussion says about producers:

    “A producer can do alot to a song; come up with the groove, basslines, suggest chord changes, suggest melody inflections, do the keyboard/extra guitar parts, mix the thing, get the sounds for various instruments, etc., and still not be credited as a writer.
    If a singer/songwriter or band comes into the studio, as long as they’ve got a lyric with a melody, and some chord changes, they are credited as being the writers of the song. Even if the initial version of said song winds up drastically different in the end product.”

    I guess similar things can be said about other members of a band, other than the one stepping into the studio with the lyrics and the melody and the overall chords. Of course different bands can have different takes on this.

    Another thing: At least if you take a song like “The Weight” I find it highly unlikely that the lyrics and the music were written separately. It’s just not that kinda song.

  30. (What I mean when I say that “songwriting credits aren’t THAT complex” is that even if it might be debatable which members of a band should get credit for a song, the whole IDEA of songwriting credits, and that they are an important source of income, is not hard to grasp, and cannot come as a surprise to someone who’s been a professional musician for years.)

  31. Firstly, I’d just like to mention that an article that lacks substantial evidence ( as Levon Helm’s book only highlights HIS side of the story) should be far more impartial than this.

    Furthermore,as the author of this article has stated above in one of his posts, only the members of The Band truly know who wrote those songs. Mr Pate, if you acknowledge this yourself, why does your article not consider Robbie Robertson’s side of the story?

    In response to one of the posters who touches on Garth Hudson’s musical abilities, I agree that the man is undeniably talented and possibly the most talented member of The Band, however that does not mean that he wrote a single word or note of Robertson’s songs. From my experience of being in a band, I’ve worked with musicians who are far more talented than I am, yet completely reluctant or even unable to put pen to paper and write songs, or even help me with mine for that matter.

    Finally, I agree with Jean on this subject: If The Band was meant to be a joint effort, and Robbie Robertson was simply to share songwriting credits on songs that he worked on alone whilst other members drank or partied, where would be the justice in that? Do you believe that someone who spends their evenings creating the songs that will bring the band success should give the other members songwriting credits for nothing?

    Mr Pate, please review your article more thoroughly next time.

  32. Robbie Robertson’s work and talent speaks for itself.
    It would appear that he is the only one out of that crew who had no problem carrying on in the music business after THE BAND.
    They all created a body of work which is timeless and truly original.
    Back in the day, it was Robbie Robertson, with his instantly recognizable original guitar sound, that I really wanted to hear. I was always struggling to figure out who was who and who sang what. There was not much music on television. As such, he was the only personality that I recognized.
    It is sad that this controversy has people who were not even born when this band was blowing up saying that Robbie’s contribution was much less significant. I suspect many parties do not know of what they speak.
    One more thing. Anyone who can write a song like “Acadian Driftwood” is a major and immense talent. My guess is that it was Mr. Robertson.

  33. I think one comment sums it up, some people believe Levon simply because “I like him best”. As for personality, which of the two spent twenty years badmouthing the other? Who made it public that they unplugged Robbie’s mic so his voice couldn’t be heard? I’ve never heard RR say ANYTHING bad about his former bandmates.

    As for royalties, a lot of people have little knowledge of the music industry. Working on a song means nothing. Nobody would even hear Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” if it wasn’t for that famous bass line. That bass line came from a session musician who overdubbed the standup bass with an electric bass because they got paid twice as much for the session if they did overdubs (go watch the “transformer man” documentary on classic albums on youtube). What did he get for royalties: diddly squat. Who did ALL the music for Transformer Man-session musicians. Who gets the songwriting royalties:Lou Reed.

    Music is a business, not a charity. If I have five mates and they all chip in equally then I’d have no problem splitting the cheque five ways. If I do the lions share of the writing and suddenly they all think we are living in a commune, then that’s just delusional-and anti american.

    Like Neil Peart, Robbie admits to being a prodigious reader of anything and everything-something Levon feels the need to make fun of. So no surprise he can write songs like he does. His solo albums in my opinion are far better than anything The Band put out.

    As for the movie, OF COURSE he is featured in it. He knew the band was ending and like anybody with a brain he knew that his face had to get out there. I watched the movie quite closely, and NEVER is his face shown when somebody else is singing. And think of this, if that was a movie about ANY other band, how much camera time would the lead guitarist get?

    Finally, Eric Clapton himself talks about what a fantastic guitarist RR is. The guy is ranked in Rolling Stones top 100 guitarists of all time, and there are a LOT of guitarists. Levon Helms isn’t even in the top 100 drummers, NOBODY cites him as an influence except maybe country music drummers who are impressed just by the fact he could play in half time (which isn’t that impressive at all).

    The fact is that people will side with Levon because he seems like “a good ole boy” and Robbie is more solitary. I’m not defending Robbie Robertson’s personality, I’ve never met him. But if the songs were REALLY in contention, then thats what lawyers are for, and Levon only hired them once and lost that court case. If your a boozer, druggie and drinker, don’t whine because your broke. If everybody loved the guy so much, how come he couldn’t get a decent job to save his life?

  34. Levon Helm, February 1983

    DB: Well, you wrote a bunch of them. (Songs from The Band.)

    LH: Well, no, I’ve not written a lot. I’m mainly a player. I
    wish I were a writer. I’ve been there when Robby and when Richard and
    Garth and people have done some good writing, and I’ve got to be a part
    of it, but I’m just your basic member of the rhythm section.

    DB: Oh, you’re too modest.

    LH: No, this is the way it is. And I like it just like that.

  35. Just got a message from the Garth Brooks facebook page trying to buyback items from a storage facility in Kingston. He’s broke and 75. Who gives a rip about who wrote what, It could have been just nice to make sure some cash came down to the folks who collaborated on some of the best music for how many freaking years? 17? I don’t give a shit about how the music business is done, I know very well how people treat others like crap all the time and I am calling you on it and saying it is a shit deal.

  36. Well to my understanding some money did, in the form of royalties for the arrangements. And then, I guess, we have money for shows and records sold as well. It’s not all just songwriting royalties.

  37. There are so many stories like this…where real music which is soul is stolen and robbed and raped by greed. Robbie got greedy and fucked levon over….everyone knows this. Fuck Robbie.

  38. Well you should give a shit how music business is done, BECAUSE IT’S DESTROYING MUSIC!

  39. Robbie Robertson fucked over his friends for money……It’s okay, your days on earth are merely a record.

  40. Sorry, but everybody does not “know” that. I think there are plenty of evidence that the songwriting credits of The Band worked as in any other normal band.
    Btw, what is “real music”?

  41. I knew Levon – also I’ve had similar experiences – at the end of the day – if you are in a group with people who are your friends…there needs to be respect – it makes my heart sink when people get so territorial – I’ve done all the “work” at times – I don’t care – that’s not life is about … some things go without saying – i’m not saying this because I knew levon…but I have no respect for Robbie Robertson. I can’t understand it. I’ve been down the road. hard. I will never understand people like him. It’s a horrible personality type.

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