Robinson’s music career slowed in the 1970s, and he went to work at various jobs including for the Chicago Board of Education and as a carpenter, cab driver and storeowner. He slowly began to perform again after a group of dedicated fans and musicians calling themselves The Ice Cream Men urged Robinson to join their shows in the late 1980s. Delmark Records revived Robinson’s recording career in 1994 with the record Lonely Traveller, and Robinson again began to perform regularly, taking gigs worldwide. He then recorded two self-produced albums for his Amina Records label, Guns, Gangs and Drugs (1996) and Maxwell Street Blues (1998), before signing with APO Records in 1998. For APO, Robinson recorded Remember Me (1998) and All My Life (2001). Both releases met with extensive acclaim, and All My Life hit the Living Blues radio charts, providing Robinson the recognition he long deserved. He was also recognized with the 2001 Blues Trust Lifetime Achievement Award from Boston-based Blues Trust Productions. Robinson was APO Records’ chief ambassador, and well beyond being a roster musician he was a family member. He will forever be the label’s Godfather.
In addition to his recording career, Robinson was a dedicated activist and committed steward for blues preservation. His chief cause was the preservation of the Maxwell Street Market on Chicago’s south side. That area, where Robinson got his start, has been razed in favor of modern buildings and parking lots in recent years. Robinson once fasted for 81 straight days in protest of the destruction. His efforts were documented extensively, including by the Discovery Channel, the New York Times, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune.
Robinson was also very conscious of his health. While many bluesmen could tell you where to find the best ribs or booze, Robinson was more apt to explain the virtues of vegetarianism and the importance of exercise. His discipline was unflappable, making his contraction of cancer a tragic irony.
Fans and friends will remember Robinson as a truly unique bluesman, a man of unmatched dedication, sincerity and philosophy.