In Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon, late Robbie Robertson‘s final original score, laced with Native American percussion and fierce electric guitar, captures the chilling tension that was building up in 1920s Oklahoma’s Osage Nation community.
The intense musical work, which Robertson composed while battling prostate cancer, was a labor of love for the five-time Grammy nominee given his own Mohawk tribal roots. He died in August at 80.
On today’s Crew Call, we speak with The Band co-founder’s longtime manager Jared Levine who expounds on Robertson’s process with his longtime friend Scorsese in mounting the three-hour epic starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro and Lily Gladstone.
“Being able to do work in the Native American music world was important to him,” says Levine, “This was the first film that he’d worked on with Marty that allowed him to go deep in that area.”
Levine began working with Robertson in 1989 on the folk blues singer’s second solo album Storyville which centered around the famous jazz homeland section of New Orleans.
Levine also regales how Robertson and Scorsese first met via The Band’s tour manager Jonathan Taplin. The latter became frustrated with the substance abuse problems going on with legendary rock group at the time, and departed the music scene to produce Scorsese’s early seminal crime feature, Mean Streets. Robertson was blown away by how Scorsese used music in Mean Streetswhich ultimately led to him asking Scorsese (via Taplin) to direct The Last Waltzthe group’s final farewell concert film, shot on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 25, 1976, at Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco.
Talking about Robertson and Scorsese’s shorthand in their approach to the score, “they never closed any avenues.”
The duo’s approach to experimentation led to “breaking the rules a little bit, doing things that didn’t seem to fit — electric guitars in a movie, in a score from 1920.”
Killers of the Flower Moon is Robertson’s first Oscar nomination ever. Robertson worked in various music capacities on previous Scorsese features from composing on The Irishman, to serving as an executive music producer on Silence, The Wolf of Wall Street, and more.
You can listen to our conversation with Levine about Robertson below: