When compiling the new Band boxed set, "A Musical History," group member Robbie Robertson found himself listening to material he hadn't heard in years, and in some cases, ever.

When compiling the new Band boxed set, "A Musical History," group member Robbie Robertson found himself listening to material he hadn't heard in years, and in some cases, ever. He tells Billboard one of the most pleasant surprises was "the musicality of the journey." But, as he stresses, he and his Band mates were hardly a "group who got guitars for Christmas and decided we wanted to get a record deal."

Indeed, by the time "Music From Big Pink," the Band's legendary 1968 album came out, the group had been together for years and had absorbed musical influences from across America's vast landscape.

"When that album came out, people acted like, 'Where in the world did this come from?' like it was so unusual," Robertson recalls. "And we were like, 'These are all the musics that we know. There are the flavors we know. It was that simple. We're bringing them with us when we come.'"

While there was joy in putting together the boxed set, due Tuesday (Sept. 27) via Capitol, Robertson says there was also great sadness for people lost along the way. "The painful part of all this was losing Rick Danko and Richard Manuel," he says. "The sounds of Richard's voice or Rick's voice, it would just tear my heart out." Manuel committed suicide in 1986; Danko died in 1999.

The set's release puts an end to the Band ... for now. "I keep saying, 'Now I'm done with the Band,'" Robertson offers. "I'm just not keen to be going back up into the attic and going into the trunks. I'm more interested in tomorrow."

Still, he admits he may go back to the well one more time. "I just have to write a book on it, and I'll be all caught up. As soon as I get some time, I'm going out to that little cabin in the woods [to write]. I like telling stories, as one might figure."

But there has never been a moment when Robertson considered reuniting with the Band's surviving members. "It never crossed my mind," he insists. "Things happen a certain way. It's in some higher power's hands. You can't do with something if it won't bend that way."

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

Print