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Producer Dave Cobb Remembers Robbie Robertson: ‘One of the Godfathers of Americana’

Dave Cobb had just gotten off a plane when he learned that Robbie Robertson, the leader of the Band and one of rock & roll’s great lyricists and guitar players, had died Wednesday at 80. The Nashville producer behind such modern-day milestones as Jason Isbell’s Southeastern, Chris Stapleton’s Traveller, and Sturgill Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music says you can hear Robertson’s influence not only in the albums Cobb himself has produced, but in much of what is considered “Americana music” today.

“Robbie was one of the godfathers of Americana. There’s no doubt about that at all,” Cobb tells Rolling Stone. “Nashville certainly wouldn’t be Nashville without him. I know he’s from Canada and he’s never lived in Nashville a day in his life, but I’m not sure if there would have been half the records made [here] without him.”

According to Cobb, Robertson carved out a lane for himself and the Band by mixing elements of rock with country. He’s not wrong: While Robertson’s guitar playing may have been grounded in rock and soul — “Somewhere between Steve Cropper and Pop Staples,” Cobb says — the storytelling and rural aesthetic were fully country.

“Robbie showed people there was an alternative to how you normally do things. Waylon Jennings was that, George Jones was that, so many people that were that, but Robbie Robertson was a Canadian guy playing rock & roll/country and connecting it with the Beatles,” he says. “I’m a massive Beatles fan and when you read about them, every single Beatle was obsessed with the Band. It was almost like Robbie and the Band had captured the rest of the world with Americana.”


Robertson was responsible for writing many of the Band’s most indelible songs, including “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” “Up on Cripple Creek,” and “The Weight,” a song often covered in country and Americana circles.

In a 1969 interview with RS, Robertson talked about how he wrote “The Weight.” “I thought of a couple of words that led to a couple more,” he said. “We just figured it was a simple song, and when it came up, we gave it a try and recorded it three or four times. We didn’t even know if we were going to use it.”

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