Bob Dylan has paid tribute to his collaborator and "lifelong friend" Robbie Robertson following his death aged 80.

Robertson, who played lead guitar in Dylan's backing band after his controversial shift to play electric guitar in the 1960s, passed away in Los Angeles on Wednesday following a long illness.

In a statement issued to Billboard, Dylan mourned his old bandmate.

“This is shocking news,” the music legend, 82, said. “Robbie was a lifelong friend. His passing leaves a vacancy in the world.”

The Canadian musician, who Dylan dubbed a “mathematical guitar genius,” played with Dylan as a member of the Hawks. Members of that group later formed The Band, which Robertson led to huge success in their own right.

In a statement announcing his death, the late musician's long-time manager, Jared Levine, said: "Robbie was surrounded by his family at the time of his death, including his wife, Janet, his ex-wife, Dominique, her partner Nicholas, and his children Alexandra, Sebastian, Delphine, and Delphine's partner Kenny. He is also survived by his grandchildren Angelica, Donovan, Dominic, Gabriel and Seraphina."

Robertson also worked with Martin Scorsese on the music for 14 of his films, including the upcoming Killers of the Flower Moon.

Scorsese also paid tribute to The Band rocker following his death, calling him one of his "closest friends".