The Band recorded a Robbie Robertson song in 1975 called “Acadian Driftwood,” arguably the most popular song about Acadian history of all time. The song initially appeared on The Band’s Northern Lights – Southern Cross album (Capitol, 1975) and has since appeared on a dozen of the group’s compilations.
Robbie Robertson is said to have been inspired to write “Acadian Driftwood” by his French-Canadian wife, Dominique. That’s part of the story. After his Woodstock years, Robertson lived briefly in Montreal, where he was reportedly moved to write this song after viewing the film Acadie Acadie (1971).
The song has been praised for powerfully recreating a devastating course of events, but there are a few disconcerting inaccuracies. Then again, Shakespeare took liberties with historical events, and Longfellow, who never set foot in Acadie, had a pastoral vision of the old settlement that didn’t reflect Acadian reality with total accuracy.
The Band’s song nonetheless drew attention to Acadian history and the historical inaccuracies didn’t stop other artists from covering the song. Rather, the song helped spread an awareness of Acadian and Cajun history beyond Acadie and the bayou. Robbie Robertson’s story of the deportation of the Acadians brought this tragedy to light in the eyes of millions of fans of The Band.