4 Songs Featuring Robert Robertson in Honor of the Late Band Guitarist

Robbie Robertson, lead guitarist and principal songwriter of the influential Americana group The Band, sadly passed away in August of 2023 at the age of 80. Had he lived, Robertson would be celebrating his 81st birthday today (July 5).

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Robertson wrote or co-wrote the majority of The Band’s original tunes, including such classic songs as “The Weight,” “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” and “Up on Cripple Creek.” He also was lauded for his searing blues- and R&B-drenched guitar playing.

[RELATED: Martin Scorsese Pays Tribute to Late Friend Robbie Robertson Following Posthumous Oscar Nomination for Killers of the Flower Moon]

During the mid-1970s, as The Band’s original lineup was moving toward breaking up, Robertson worked with a variety of other well-known artists. He lent his guitar talents to quite a few noteworthy recordings by musicians outside of his famous group.

In honor of Robertson’s birthday, here are four songs by various music stars featuring Robbie on guitar:

“Raised on Robbery” – Joni Mitchell (1973)

“Raised on Robbery” was a song featured on Joni Mitchell’s hit 1974 album Court and Spark. The record was the Canadian singer/songwriter’s highest-charting studio effort, peaking at No. 2 on the Billboard 200.

Robertson plays lead guitar on the track, which begins with a jazzy intro featuring Mitchell’s multi-tracked vocals, and soon transforms into the grooving rock ‘n’ roll tune.

The song tells the story of a prostitute trying to proposition a guy who’s watching a hockey game at a Canadian hotel bar.

Robertson offers up a variety guitar riffs combining blues, funk, and rock ‘n’ roll.

“Raised on Robbery” was released as the lead single from Court and Spark in December 1973. It reached No. 40 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart and No. 65 on the Billboard Hot 100.

In a 2019 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Robertson revealed that Mitchell had recently talked to him about the track, which had just been remixed around that time.

Robertson told the newspaper, “Joni said to me, ‘I listened to the whole song, and just listened to your guitar in it. The rhythm is incredible. And so when we remixed it, we turned it up.’”

“Mockingbird” – Carly Simon with James Taylor (1974)

In 1974, Carly Simon teamed up with James Taylor to release a cover of the 1963 soul tune “Mockingbird,” a hit duet for the sibling duo of Inez & Charlie Foxx. Simon and Taylor’s version was featured on Carly’s Hotcakes album, and the song became a bigger hit for the couple than it was for the Foxxes.

The original version reached No. 7 on the Hot 100, while Simon and Taylor’s rendition was a No. 5 hit.

Robertson contributed a funky, trebly guitar solo to the joyful track, which also featured Dr. John on piano, Bobby Keys and Michael Brecker on sax, Jim Keltner on drums, and Klaus Voormann on bass.

“Dry Your Eyes” – Neil Diamond (1976)

In a somewhat incongruous collaboration, Robertson produced legendary pop singer/songwriter Neil Diamond’s 1976 album Beautiful Noise. Robbie also played guitar on a few tracks on the record, including the majestic ballad “Dry Your Eyes.”

Diamond and Robertson co-wrote “Dry Your Eyes,” and the track featured The Band’s Garth Hudson on Lowry organ.

Robertson’s work with Diamond led him to invite Neil to perform at The Band’s historic 1976 farewell concert, “The Last Waltz.” Diamond is featured singing “Dry Your Eyes” in the acclaimed Martin Scorsese-directed 1978 film The Last Waltz capturing highlights of the show.

“Sign Language” – Eric Clapton with Bob Dylan (1976)

Eric Clapton’s fourth solo album, No Reason to Cry, featured a song called “Sign Language” that Bob Dylan gave to the British guitar icon. Clapton recorded “Sign Language” as a duet with Dylan.

The laid-back folk-rock song features a distinctive, shimmering guitar solo by Robertson, while The Rolling Stones’ Ronnie Wood also contributed guitar to the track.

Clapton recorded No Reason to Cry at Shangri-La Studios in Malibu, California, at a time when the studio was serving as The Band’s home base. The album peaked at No. 15 on the Billboard 200.

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