Robertson, George get Academy Award nods for 'Flower Moon' music

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Jan. 27—When nominations for the 96th Academy Awards were announced on Jan. 23 I eagerly waited to see if one of my favorite musicians would be nominated.

I already felt impressed to hear the late Robbie Robertson's soundtrack for the Oklahoma-filmed movie "Killers of the August Moon" and certainly believed it worthy of a nomination in the Best Original Score category.

Robertson, one of my favorite songwriters and guitarists, composed the original score for the Martin Scorsese-directed movie, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Lily Gladstone and Robert De Niro.

Scorsese's film is about what is known as the Osage Reign of Terror from 1921-1926 in Osage County, Oklahoma. "Killers of the Flower Moon" garnered a total of 10 Academy Awards, including a Best Actress nomination for Gladstone, the first Native American woman to be nominated in that category.

Robertson used his stinging Telecaster guitar and worked with other musicians to create the memorable score for the movie, which creates a moody and haunting musical soundscape for scenes throughout the film.

So when the Academy Award nominations were announced Tuesday on "Good Morning America," I felt thrilled to see that Robertson had indeed achieved a nomination in the Best Original Score category.

We will have to wait until the telecast, set for Sunday, March 10 on ABC, to see who wins.

But Robertson isn't the only musical nominee from "Killers of the Flower Moon."

Scott George won an Academy Award nomination in the Best Original Song category for "Wahzhazhe (A Song for My People)" — which is included in the film's soundtrack and played in an intriguing scene near the movie's end.

It begins with an overhead shot of Native Americans playing a large drum, then the overhead shot slowly expands to show a large group of Osage dancers while George's song plays.

I wasn't immediately familiar with George's name, but soon learned he's an Oklahoman and Osage tribal member credited with composing the music and lyrics for the song, with acknowledgement to Vann Bighorse and Kenny Bighorse, identified as consultants for the song.

I only wish that Robertson, who was 80 when he passed away last August, could have lived to see his remarkable score achieve the Academy Award nomination.

In the Best Original Score category, Robertson faces some tough competition.

Other nominees include John Williams for "Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny." Williams had already won five Oscars for his scores on films including "Star Wars," "E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial," "Jaws," "Schindler's List" and "Fiddler on the Roof."

Other nominees for Best Original Score are Ludwig Goronsson for "Oppenheimer," Laura Karpman for "American Fiction" and Jerskin Fendrix for "Poor Things."

George also faces some tough competition in the Best Original Song category.

Other Academy Award nominees for Best Original Song include a couple of songs from "Barbie."

Both "I'm Just Ken" with music and lyrics by Mark Ronson and Andrew Wyatt and "What Was I Made For?" with music and lyrics by Billie Eilish and her brother, Finneas O'Connell, are nominated for Best Original Song.

Wyatt is fresh off the heels of his work with the Rolling Stones, producing and co-writing some songs for their hit album, "Hackney Diamonds," while Eilish and O'Connell wrote the music for her blockbuster albums.

Also nominated in the Best Original Song category is Diane Warren for writing "The Fire Inside" from "Flamin' Hot." Warren, who has been nominated 13 times previously for Best Original Song without a win, finally received an Honorary Academy Award in 2022 in recognition of her many contributions to movies.

Included in the Best Original Song category is "I Never Walked Away" from "American Symphony," by John Batiste and Dan Wilson.

Even if Robertson doesn't win for Best Original Score, I have a feeling he would have truly felt honored to be nominated.

The child of a Cayua and Mohawk mother and a Jewish father, Robertson wrote in his memoir, "Testimony," about going with his mother to visit her family on the Six Nations Reserve near Toronto. He relates how he was enthralled to see his mother's family playing instruments and making their music. He figures that contributed greatly to his making a career in music when he grew older.

A lover of cinema, Robertson credited his study of music scripts for inspiring him to create some of his best music and lyrics.

Robertson is known for his work with The Band, the group of four Canadians and Arkansas native Levon Helm, who are credited with creating the genre now known as Americana, beginning with the their 1967 album "Music From Big Pink" and the self-titled followup album simply known as "The Band."

Prior to recording as The Band, the group was called the Hawks, the raucous band backing rockabilly singer Ronnie Hawkins, who had migrated to Canada along with Helm and other Arkansas-based band members.

After awhile, the Arkansans became homesick and one-by-one dropped out and returned home — with the exceptions of Hawkins and Helm.

As each member of the group dropped out, Hawkins replaced him with a Canadian musician, resulting in The Band's classic lineup of Robertson, Helms, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson.

Eventually, the group tired of some of Hawkins' rules and struck out on their own.

Bod Dylan, in the midst of transitioning from a folk singer to a full-scale rock artist, first hired Robertson and Helm, then the rest of the group to back him on his riotous 1966 world tour, where Dylan and the group were often roundly booed for his daring to play rock music instead of an all-acoustic set.

After Dylan reportedly injured himself in a still mysterious motorcycle crash, he and the Hawks settled in area around Woodstock New York, where they recorded a series of songs called "The Basement Tapes."

Not long afterwards, the group obtained a contract with Capitol Records. By the time Dylan and The Band got back together for their famous 1974 tour, The Band had become one of the most influential bands on the scene.

Eschewing the psychedelic sounds and 20-minute guitar solos so prevalent at the time, The Band's records featured a virtuosic return to simplicity.

After Robertson left The Band, he worked with Scorsese on a number of film soundtracks and also released a series of solo albums.

Although Robertson rarely sang with The Band, I loved his vocal performances on his solo albums, beginning with his self-titled first release, "Robbie Robertson." A beguiling album, it featured songs such as "Somewhere Down the Crazy River," "Showdown at Big Sky," "Fallen Angel" and "Broken Arrow," which became a hit for Rod Stewart.

I liked pretty much everything Robertson did, including all his work with The Band and his solo albums, along with his 2016 autobiography "Testimony" and the 2019 film documentary "Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band."

Now, Robertson's Academy Award nomination is a fitting coda to his brilliant career.