Folk singer Gil Robbins dies at 80

Gil Robbins, a deep-voiced member of the 1960s folk group the Highwaymen, has died at the age of 80.

Gil Robbins, a deep-voiced member of the 1960s folk group the Highwaymen, has died at the age of 80.

Robbins, who had battled prostate cancer, died Tuesday at his home in Esteban Cantu, Mexico, according to a statement from a publicist representing his son, Hollywood actor and filmmaker Tim Robbins.

The folk singer was "a fantastic father," "a great musician" and "a man of unshakeable integrity," according to the younger Robbins.

"His commitment to social justice was evident to us from an early age, as was his infectious mischievous sense of humour," he said in a statement.

"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."

The seminal folk group The Highwaymen had already scored a hit song — Michael (adapted from the spiritual song Michael, Row the Boat Ashore) — before the Washington-born, California-raised Robbins joined in 1962.

During his time with the band, he helped shift its music in a more political direction and convinced his bandmates to perform songs that focused on social justice issues. He played guitar and sang on five albums before the band broke up in 1964.

"He had a real strong moral centre; he spoke up for what he believed in," his son Tim told the Los Angeles Times.

Robbins was also a well-known figure in New York's folk music scene. After his time in The Highwaymen, he managed the Gaslight music club in Greenwich Village, which hosted musicians such as Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt and Bruce Springsteen.

In later years, he appeared in several films directed by his son: Cradle Will Rock, Dead Man Walking and Bob Roberts. He also worked as a vocal coach and musical consultant for TV specials and films (including 1992 film Bob Roberts, about a folksinger involved in a corrupt election campaign).

Robbins is survived by his wife, his brother, four children and four grandchildren.

With files from The Associated Press