Robbie Robertson: 'It's been a long journey'

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'Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band' press image
Robbie Robertson in ONCE WERE BROTHERS: ROBBIE ROBERTSON AND THE BAND, a Magnolia Pictures release. (Don Dixon)
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Robbie Robertson is a a well-documented person. In 2016, the legendary guitarist, songwriter, composer and producer told his life story in the memoir Testimony. The book chronicles the period from Robertson's upbringing on the Six Nations Reserve in Ontario to his wild years touring with Ronnie Hawkins and Bob Dylan, to his role in the formation of one of the most influential groups of the 20th century, The Band.

Testimony got the attention of filmmakers, and ultimately, Robertson chose to option film rights to his book to Toronto-based film and television production company White Pine Pictures, working with Canadian director Daniel Roher. The resulting film, Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band, opens Friday, Feb. 28, at the Landmark Lagoon Cinema in Minneapolis.

Ahead of the relase of the film, Mary Lucia had the chance to talk to Robbie Robertson about it. "It's been a long journey," Robertson says. "There's a lot of things to go over. This documentary completely came about because of my book, Testimony. Some people thought it would be a great idea to do a documentary inspired by the book. I thought, 'Well, if you can make it good, I like that idea.'"

The title includes the word "Brothers," and that suggests a powerful filial connection among the members of the band. "We started out so young," Robertson tells Mary Lucia. "When I started playing with Levon, I was 16 years old. When the other guys joined, I think I was around 17, 18. So it was a long period of time ,and things don't stay the same. People go off and they get married and they have a family. They move here, they move there. So it's not a stationary thing. And one is to expect it to evolve and to change and hopefully, things when they do change they don't heave other parts behind, but eventually they do. And we discovered that, and we accepted that, and we tried to grow through that.

"But because of this period of time this was taking place in — in the late 60s and in the 70s — you know, it was a crazy time as well," Robertson continues. "And coming through that storm, somebody's going to get blown over, somebody's going to get knocked down in that. So we saw that happening, and you want to protect one another, you want to be there for one another and everything, but sometimes you don't really know how to do that."

Listen to more of Mary Lucia's conversation with Robbie Robertson above, and listen to The Current the week of March 2 to hear even more of Mary's interview with Robbie Robertson.

Robbie Robertson, 'Once Were Brothers' music video

Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band official trailer

External Links

Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band - official site

Robbie Robertson - official site

8 Photos

  • 'Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band' press image
    The Band (left to right): Rick Danko, Levon Helm, Richard Manuel, Garth Hudson, and Robbie Robertson in ONCE WERE BROTHERS: ROBBIE ROBERTSON AND THE BAND, a Magnolia Pictures release. (Elliott Landy)
  • 'Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band' press image
    Levon Helm, Rick Danko, Robbie Robertson, Garth Hudson, and Richard Manuel in ONCE WERE BROTHERS: ROBBIE ROBERTSON AND THE BAND, a Magnolia Pictures release. (David Gahr)
  • 'Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band' press image
    Robbie Robertson in ONCE WERE BROTHERS: ROBBIE ROBERTSON AND THE BAND, a Magnolia Pictures release. (David Gahr)
  • 'Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band' press image
    The Band in ONCE WERE BROTHERS: ROBBIE ROBERTSON AND THE BAND, a Magnolia Pictures release. (David Gahr)
  • 'Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band' press image
    Bob Dylan and Robbie Robertson in ONCE WERE BROTHERS: ROBBIE ROBERTSON AND THE BAND, a Magnolia Pictures release. (Barry Feinstein)
  • 'Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band' press image
    The Band in ONCE WERE BROTHERS: ROBBIE ROBERTSON AND THE BAND, a Magnolia Pictures release. (David Gahr)
  • 'Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band' press image
    Daniel Roher, director of ONCE WERE BROTHERS: ROBBIE ROBERTSON AND THE BAND, a Magnolia Pictures release. (Kiarash Sadigh)
  • 'Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band' press image
    Theatrical one-sheet for ONCE WERE BROTHERS: ROBBIE ROBERTSON AND THE BAND, a Magnolia Pictures release. (Photo by Elliott Landy, 1969.)