Bob Dylan has shared a brief public statement about his late colleague Robbie Robertson, who died on Wednesday at age 80. “This is shocking news. Robbie was a lifelong friend. His passing leaves a vacancy in the world,” he wrote.
Robertson first started working with Dylan in 1965, after an introduction from a mutual friend. Dylan soon recruited Robertson and his fellow members of the Hawks—Levon Helm, Richard Manuel, Rick Danko, and Garth Hudson—as a backing band, and the group became indispensable to his efforts to transform his sound.
Dylan’s relocation to Woodstock, New York in 1966 inspired the Band to do the same, which opened a significant creative period for both. During that time, as the group worked on what would become 1968’s Music From Big Pink, Dylan sometimes joined them in jamming and discussing songwriting. Some of that material was released as part of The Basement Tapes in 1975.
In the wake of the commercial success of Music From Big Pink, Robertson and company splintered off to focus on their work as the Band, but they remained close to Dylan’s orbit. They last backed him on 1974’s Planet Waves; he returned the favor by joining the group for “Forever Young,” “I Shall Be Released,” and a few other songs at their final performance in 1976.
Dylan and Robertson continued their friendships in the decades following the Band’s dissolution. In 2020, Robertson told Rolling Stone about his missed opportunity working with Dylan on Rough and Rowdy Ways, which came while he was working on the score to Martin Scorcese’s The Irishman and other projects. “I said, ‘Right now, I’m in the middle of this stuff,’ and I think that he just felt like it was cooked and he needed to bring it out of the oven,” Robertson said.