Folk Singer Gil Robbins Dies

Gil Robbins, a folk singer, guitarist and member of the early 1960s group the Highwaymen, has died. He was 80.

Robbins died Tuesday at his home in Esteban Cantu, Mexico, Tracey Jacobs said Saturday night in an email to The Associated Press. Jacobs is a publicist for Robbins’ son, the actor and director Tim Robbins.

Shortly before Gil Robbins joined the Highwaymen, the group had a major hit with “Michael,” its version of “Michael, Row the Boat Ashore.” When Robbins joined in 1962, he took the group in a more political direction, playing and singing baritone on five albums until their 1964 breakup. (A country music supergroup with Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash later shared the same name.)

Tim Robbins, star of “The Shawshank Redemption and director of “Dead Man Walking,” said in a statement to the AP that Gil Robbins was “a fantastic father,” “a great musician” and “a man of unshakeable integrity.”

“His commitment to social justice was evident to us from an early age, as was his infectious mischievous sense of humor,” Tim Robbins said. “His passing has created great sadness for all of us and our mother but we take comfort in knowing that the angels will soon be soothed by the songs coming from his beautiful baritone voice.”

Father and son worked together on the 1992 film “Bob Roberts.” Tim Robbins directed and played the title role of a right-wing, folk-singing U.S. Senate candidate from Pennsylvania. The actor’s brother David Robbins wrote and recorded the film’s ultra-conservative folk songs, and Gil Robbins was listed in the credits as a vocal coach and choral consultant.

Robbins was born in Spokane, Wash., and raised in Southern California, where he studied music at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Before joining the Highwaymen, he was already a well-known musician in the folk scene that surrounded New York’s Greenwich Village as a member of the Cumberland Three and the Belafonte Singers, and as a friend to famous folkies like John Stewart and Dave Van Ronk, according to The New York Times, which first reported his death.

After the Highwaymen, Robbins managed the Gaslight Club on Greenwich Village’s famously musical MacDougal Street.