Robbie Robertson in Conversation with Steve Scher
I don’t go to these type of events very often, because I’m either at a concert or festival catching the music live, nor am I a very big book reader in general. But when I saw that Robbie Robertson was going to be in Seattle as a part of his book tour for his autobiography TESTIMONY, I felt I needed to hear what he had to share.
Local Seattle Journalist and Writer Steve Scher started the conversation in asking Robbie about his upbringing in Canada. Robbie shared stories of his Mother, who was of First Nations heritage. At an early age Robbie showed in an interest in music and learned from his elders from their storytelling. In his teens, his Mother made him aware that his Father wasn’t his biolocial Dad and he was introduced to his blood Father’s family. Robbie shared that his Uncle was somewhat a notorius character and there were a lot of shady people around during his childhood.
But as he got older, his interest in music grew with the introduction of Rock ‘N’ Roll. Robbie shared how he used to listen to the radio and pick up those 50,000 watts radios stations in Nashville. Robbie shared a story of meeting Buddy Holly after a show that included Little Richard and Fats Domino. After the show with the room clearing out, Robbie hung around and waited and then, there was Buddy Holly, loading his gear, and a young Robbie asking him about playing the guitar. As Robbie described this moment, I could only imagine what it could have been like as a teenager, at that time.
The next moment for Robbie was his band opening for Ronnie Hawkins in a small club. Robbie stated that after watching Ronnie Hawkins, he realized a whole ‘nother music style that pulled him in. Ronnie was so impressed with Robbie’s guitar playing, he was invited to join his band. And at 16 yearss old, Robbie hit the road and headed to the South.
While playing with Ronnie Hawkins, Robbie shared how he started playing with Levon Helm and Garth Hudson as the Hawks. Then in 1965 they started a realtionship with Bob Dylan perfroming as Bob Dylan and The Band. Robbie shared how it came about for Bob Dylan coming to Woodstock where the legendary “Basement Tapes” were recorded. At this point Steve Scher asked if Robbie was still in contact with Bob, where Robbie said that they leave notes for each other and that he sent Bob a copy of the book.
The conversation continued on with Steve Scher asking about songwriting, how does the process work and Robbie shared how amazed he was with how Bob Dylan wrote. He shared that Bob would sit at a typewriter and just simply pound away with the words. Robbie said that when he wrote, he would have a melody in mind and figure how to combine the words, but with Bob the words came first and then he would create the music around them.
The conversation moved to his relationship with Levon Helm, especially near the end of Levon’s life. Robbie shared that he was able see Levon at his bedside and was able to say goodbye to his friend. Steve Scher asked if there was any ill feelings between them as Levon had written some negative comments in his autobiorgraphy, but Robbie said that was put to rest and sharing that it was in the past.
After an hour flying by, Robbie Robertson shared some insights into his new book that were engaging and interesting. I’ll look forward to a fun read. If you want see my entire photo gallery, head over here:http://peterdervin.com/20161202_robbie_robertson.html