Since they first teamed up on The Last Waltz 35 years ago, Robbie Robertson and Martin Scorsese have enjoyed a prolific working relataionship, collaborating on such films as Raging Bull, The Departed and most recently Shutter Island. Now the two are pairing up again for Scorsese's upcoming movie Silence, about two 16th-century Jesuit priests facing persecution in Japan, reportedly starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Benicio Del Toro.
"Marty talked to me early about it because it’s such an unusual, specific thing," says Robertson, who recently released a How to Be Clairvoyant box set featuring the work of several visual artists. "I can’t tell you too much detail about it, but it is an extraordinary challenge and the music for this film needs to be something that we’ve never heard before."
Robertson is also hard at work on his autobiography – which he's writing without a co-author or ghost writer. "For me, telling those stories were on the tip of my tongue," he says. "I’m in the very early stages of writing, and a lot of the process I’m going through right now is gathering. There are gonna be some painful things that I have to talk about in it. But at this stage – and I didn’t feel this way a year ago, and I feel this way now – I’m really deep in on wanting to share these stories."
He got some practice in storytelling last week during an interview/Q&A at L.A.'s Grammy Museum. For 90 minutes, Robertson reflected on his remarkable career, telling tales of his friendships with Eric Clapton, Dylan, and Scorese and reminiscing on The Last Waltz. But probably the standout story, and one that left the couple hundred or so audience members laughing, was his recollection of how the Band was singlehandedly blamed for Woodstock.
According to Robertson, as the only local act on the festival, he and his band mates were ostracized by the townspeople, who believed the Band had brought the crowd of half a million people to their quiet artist community. The resentment went so deep, he recalled, that retailers wouldn't wait on them and they got dirty looks wherever they went. Trying to make it right, the group offered to record the Stage Fright album live for the locals, who turned them down. Undaunted, they recorded the album in the empty Woodstock Playhouse.
Robertson credits writing the autobiography for making the Grammy Museum sitdown such an easy evening for him. "I was reminiscing on things I’ve been reminiscing while I’m writing. So it was an easy situation just to float into those stories," he says.
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