Robbie Robertson and The Band are the subject of Daniel Roher’s upcoming documentary Once Were Brothers. Martin Scorsese and Ron Howard executive produced the project.
Scorsese has a long history with The Band. He directed 1978’s The Last Waltz, which is widely considered one of the all time great concert films. It displays how respected The Band were among the music community, featuring guest appearances from Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Muddy Waters and even Neil bloody Diamond.
The new film takes a more explicit look at the life of lead guitarist Robertson. Robertson was The Band’s de-facto leader across seven studio albums from 1968 to 1977. He wrote or co-wrote the classic rock staples ‘The Weight’, ‘Up On Cripple Creek’ and ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down’.
However, there was tension between Robertson and The Band’s drummer and co-lead vocalist Levon Helm. Helm – who passed away in 2012 – believed The Last Waltz was a ploy by Robertson and Scorsese to make The Band look like Robertson’s solo vehicle.
Despite being the group’s most prolific songwriter, Robertson rarely sang lead vocals. In his 1993 autobiography This Wheel’s On Fire, Helm claims that Robertson’s microphone was switched off throughout the filming of The Last Waltz.
However, Robertson is central to the narrative of the new documentary, which includes interviews with the likes of Scorsese, Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton and Van Morrison. Archival interviews with Helm also feature.
Watch: ‘Once Were Brothers’ Official Trailer
“There is no band that emphasises becoming greater than the sum of their parts than The Band,” Springsteen says in the trailer. “Simply their name – The Band – that was it.”
Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band is due for limited theatrical release on Thursday February 21 (US) with more details to come on when and where we can see it in Australia.