The Band's Robbie Robertson has toured, recorded, composed soundtracks, written dozens of classics, and worked with everyone from Bob Dylan to Neil Diamond. But on September 19th, he ventured into a new arena – an art gallery.
Robertson recently issued a special limited-edition collector's set of his new album, How to Become Clairvoyant – a lavish LP-size box that includes an art book, an individually numbered set of five lithographs (including pieces by artist Richard Prince and photographer Anton Corbijn), a set of original tarot cards and the original album plus 10 bonus tracks. Surrounded by some of the original artwork – including Prince's variations on a photo of a 17-year-old Robertson – Robertson signed copies of the box at a one-night event at New York's Gagosian Gallery.
"When you look at that period when Warhol and the Velvets and the Stones were doing things, it was this intersection of art and music," he told Rolling Stone. "And then it went away. It was time for this to rise to the surface again. Hopefully it's an inspiration for other music people to go there." At least one fellow musician agreed: two days before, Trent Reznor (who contributed to Robertson's album) tweeted, "As a fan of nicely made 'deluxe' packages, my pal Robbie Robertson raises the bar significantly."
For Robertson, connecting music with artwork is a longtime tradition. "I asked Bob Dylan to paint the album cover for Music from Big Pink," he recalled. "He said, 'Yeah, let me see what I can come up with.' He went and painted that and I said, 'Yeah, that's pretty good – we'll use that!' Somebody just told me they're asking $18 million for it."
In addition to releasing the collector's set, Robertson is juggling a slew of new projects. He's already begun writing new material (including new collaborations with producer Howie B.) and is in the early stages of composing music for an upcoming Martin Scorsese film set in 16th-century Japan. He's also begun work on his autobiography, to be published by Crown. "It's a huge undertaking," he says, "especially since I'm not doing it with anybody. But I'm enjoying the storytelling process." Right now, Robertson said he's not sure when the book will be finished. "My deadline is when I figure out what I'm doing," he joked.