Gil Robbins, folk singer, dies at 80

Was father of actor Tim Robbins

Folk singer-songwriter, actor and club manager Gil Robbins died on Tuesday in Esteban Cantu, Mexico. He was 80.

Prostate cancer was the cause of death, Robbins’ wife Mary told the New York Times. Robbins was the father of actor-director Tim Robbins.

In a statement to the Associated Press, Tim Robbins said of his father: “His commitment to social justice was evident to us from an early age, as was his infectious, mischievous sense of humor.”

Robbins’ most notable musical contributions came as a member of the Highwaymen, for which he sang and played guitarron in the early 1960s. He also played bass and sang with the Belafonte Singers (the touring band for Harry Belafonte) and the Cumberland Three.

Born in Spokane, Wash., in 1931, Robbins grew up in Los Angeles and attended UCLA, where he met his wife. Robbins was drum major for the school’s marching band; upon leaving university, he also played in the Air Force band.

In 1960 he joined the Cumberland Three, which introduced him to the then-bustling Greenwich Village folk music scene. After recording three albums with that outfit, he joined the Belafonte Singers, and then the Highwaymen in 1962. Already a popular folk act at the time, the Highwaymen recorded five albums with Robbins for United Artists.

After the Highwaymen disbanded in 1964, Robbins turned to management of seminal Gotham folk club the Gaslight, a well-known haunt for Bob Dylan, Richie Havens, Phil Ochs and others. He also acted in three films directed by his son Tim: “Dead Man Walking,” “Bob Roberts” and “Cradle Will Rock.”

In addition to his wife and son Tim, he is survived by son David, daughters Adele and Gabriel, a brother and four grandchildren.

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