Once Were Brothers - Robbie Robertson

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Tactful Cactus
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Once Were Brothers - Robbie Robertson

Postby Tactful Cactus » 08 Jun 2020, 14:46

I finished watching this over the weekend. Its the 3rd documentary of The Band that I've watched and thats not even including the Bob Dylan adjacent docs - they're a well documented band!

Levon's documentary from the early 00's was fairly anti-Robbie. The Classic Albums doc had everyones contribution but focused on the music whereas Robbies new one retells the story through his own prism.

A few observations:

1. This new one is by far the most accomplished documentary of the three, no surprises considering Scorcese is involved. The archive footage and photographs are terrific, some I've never seen before like his own cine-footage of the Woodstock years

2. Robbie talks very slowly and deliberately throughout the doc - I wonder is his health ok?

3. Very few archive contributions from Rick/Richard in the doc and no fresh contributions from Garth, which is notable considering he's the only other surviving Band member. The documentary is almost positioned as a "Lennon/McCartney" type situation between RR and LH -- the other 3 are "George Harrison" even though the point is often made that all five made the Band what it is. It just didn't feel as equitable as the Classic Albums.

4. The Robbie-less post Last Waltz band gets zero mention -- as far as this story is concerned they never existed

5. Ronnie Hawkins is still alive and kicking! Good for him

6. You get a better understanding of the divergent paths between RR and the rest. He quickly became a family man in Woodstock, he grew up alot quicker than they did

7. His mid-70's mustachio coke dealer look was not a good look

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Charlie O.
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Re: Once Were Brothers - Robbie Robertson

Postby Charlie O. » 08 Jun 2020, 14:54

Yeah, I agree with all that. It's very much a companion piece to his book, which also ended at The Last Waltz.

It's his story and he can tell it as he sees fit. I don't know that it's necessarily any more credible or any less credible than Levon's version.

I too was disappointed that Garth wasn't involved, but I gather that he really has had health issues. Plus I don't think he was overly fond of interviews at the best of times - shame, as he's a fascinating character.
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Re: Once Were Brothers - Robbie Robertson

Postby modharper » 08 Jun 2020, 20:17

Robbie was involved very closely with the making of this film, so it’s only natural it would focus on his version of events, which has polarised fans in its skewing of what is held to be the truth. I haven’t seen it yet (not available in the U.K.) but will reserve judgement until I’ve seen it for myself, because many people are quite overly harsh on Robbie without knowing the full facts, but am also aware that it’s naturally weighted in favour of him.

Garth actively will not cooperate with any of Robbie’s projects, such is the state of their relationship, so take form that what you will with regards the point above.

His voice I’d say was more considered rather than slow. Whenever I’ve interviewed him I’ve felt it’s more about the thought process and the intonation rather than the speed. Then again, he is 76 so one would assume there’s be a difference in his vocals these days...

They say that history is dictated by the survivors. In the case of this film, that appears to be the case.
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Re: Once Were Brothers - Robbie Robertson

Postby Tactful Cactus » 09 Jun 2020, 17:00

modharper wrote:They say that history is dictated by the survivors. In the case of this film, that appears to be the case.


I can't wait for Ringos new and improved Beatles Anthology once Paul finally kicks it :D

Sorry to keep on about the Beatle comparisons, but Robbie did feel like the McCartney of the group. Passive and parental, trying to guide everyone through their superstardom but alienating them in the process. Levon seemed like someone who just wanted to have a screaming match with someone, get it all out in the open and then go for a beer. Robbie was too introverted and passive.

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Re: Once Were Brothers - Robbie Robertson

Postby modharper » 09 Jun 2020, 17:24

Tactful Cactus wrote:

Sorry to keep on about the Beatle comparisons, but Robbie did feel like the McCartney of the group. Passive and parental, trying to guide everyone through their superstardom but alienating them in the process. Levon seemed like someone who just wanted to have a screaming match with someone, get it all out in the open and then go for a beer. Robbie was too introverted and passive.


Given that three of his band mates were alcoholics/junkies/both, I’d say they did a pretty good job of alienating themselves- certainly from a creative/songwriting point of view. A number of people close to the band have told me that the guys just didn’t contribute. I agree with you about Levon, but that also feels the same for his musical contributions - I get the impression he just preferred the rocking and rolling part of building a song than actually writing one; and that’s where the problem lay in later years that he presumed the former was just as important as the latter...
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Re: Once Were Brothers - Robbie Robertson

Postby Muskrat » 09 Jun 2020, 19:59

This is Garth three years ago.



And, from the same show:




His wife almost ran away with it all, though (she comes onstage after a bit from Steve Wynn, about 4:00):
the other women are Vicki Peterson and Susan Cowsill

Things that a fella can't forget...

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