The Band’s Robbie Robertson on Ronnie Hawkins’ Passing: “He Was Our Mentor. He Taught Us the Rules of the Road”


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Rock Cellar Magazine

Rockabilly icon Ronnie Hawkins died on Sunday at the age of 87 after a “long illness,” the musician’s wife, Wanda, confirmed to the Canadian press in a statement. “He went peacefully and he looked as handsome as ever,” she told CBC.

As far as the career and legacy of The Band is concerned, Hawkins served a crucial role alongside Robbie Robertson, Levon Helm and their musical colleagues. Robertson released a statement to that effect, paying homage to Hawkins and his importance to Robertson’s career and music at large.

Here’s Robertson’s message, in full:

My heart sank when I heard “The Hawk” just flew into the sunset.

The story of The Band began with Ronnie Hawkins. He was our mentor. He taught us the rules of the road.

Ronnie Hawkins brought me down from Canada to the Mississippi delta when I was 16. He recorded two songs I’d written and thought I might be talented. He tried me out on guitar and bass the only problem was; I’m too young to play in the clubs they toured, I was too inexperienced, not a good enough musician yet, and there are NO Canadians in southern rock and roll bands. But I practiced until my fingers were bleeding and he ended up hiring me against all odds.

Ron prided himself in always having top notch players in his group. Levon Helm his drummer in the Hawks and I talked Ron into hiring Rick Danko on bass and vocals, Richard Manuel on piano and vocals and Garth Hudson on organ and sax. Along with Levon and me this became the magic combination.

Ronnie was the godfather. The one who made this all happen.

He had us rehearsing constantly into the wee hours. We balked about it, but we got better and better. Our goal whether we knew it or not.

After the Hawks left Ron and went out on our own, we joined up with Bob Dylan. Next the Hawks became The Band and the rest is history, as they say.

All starting out with Ronnie Hawkins.

He was not only a great artist, a tremendous performer and bandleader, but had a style of humor unequaled. Fall down funny and completely unique. Yep, God only made one of those. And he will live in our hearts forever.

My deepest condolences to his family.

Bless his soul.

My heart sank when I heard “The Hawk” just flew into the sunset. The story of The Band began with Ronnie Hawkins. He…

Posted by Robbie Robertson on Sunday, May 29, 2022

Robertson followed that post with a share of “Who Do You Love,” and some more memories about the track:

When we went back on to kick off the sets with our guest artists, naturally our first performer had to be our original fearless leader, “the Hawk,” Rompin’ Ronnie Hawkins. He cast off his nervousness from the rehearsal and took the stage in blazing form, yelling toward Bill Graham, “Big time, Bill. Big time!” We played “Who Do You Love,” Bo Diddley’s song that we had covered years earlier. I whipped out some of my old Hawks-style guitar playing, and Ronnie growled like a mad dog. In the middle of one of my solos, he took off his hat and fanned my fingers like the guitar was going to catch fire, just as he had done back when I was seventeen.
Rest In Peace old friend.

When we went back on to kick off the sets with our guest artists, naturally our first performer had to be our original…

Posted by Robbie Robertson on Tuesday, May 31, 2022



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