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Robbie Robertson died Aug. 9. Robbie was Mohawk from my home community, Six Nations of the Grand River, Ont., and the leader and lead guitar player of the Americana rock group The Band. His screaming guitar work accompanied Bob Dylan when he went electric. Robbie worked with Martin Scorsese in several films, including this fall’s Killers of the Flower Moon, the story of the murder of Osage people for their oil in Oklahoma at the turn of the 20th Century.

People come along who gift us with the common grace they exhibit as image bearers of God. They are flawed like King David, but their music has carried us along in the broken journey of our lives. In 2017, Robbie received the Six Nations Lifetime Achievement Award. He hid his Mohawk identity in his early life due to prejudice, but in his later career he embraced it fully. Many Indigenous people know this circuitous journey away from and back to our Creator-given identity.

My experience of Robbie Robertson includes iconic songs such as “The Weight,” especially the rendition done by the Playing for Change people. In this song/story, a burden is carried by a responsible person who meets various characters in his journey. As with any good song, the identity of characters and the circumstances are generic enough for you to put yourself into the song. A good song elicits universal emotions. I know I carry responsibilities and it gets weary at times. I meet all kinds of characters along my way—family, friends, allies, the ignorant, and enemies. I make it through with a little of the grace my companions provide.

My experience also comes from reading his autobiography, Testimony, the story of the genesis of the Americana genre. I was a kid back then and insensible to the machinations of popular culture. I was poor and growing up along the Boston Crik at Six Nations. My mother loved old country music and I loved listening to Hank Williams, Merle Haggard, and Kitty Wells. Meanwhile Robbie Robertson was playing guitar for Ronnie Hawkins and The Hawks and changing the musical world with Bob Dylan. We came from the same community and our lives were completely different.

When I learned of Robbie Robertson's death, I was surprised by how deeply moved I was. I guess that is how common grace works. Our Creator God is such a master at making humanity and sprinkling glittering glory in all of us image bearers. I am thankful for the glittering glory of the Creator that I saw in Robbie Robertson. His songs are part of the soundtrack of my life.

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