Testimony

Testimony

Book - 2016
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On the fortieth anniversary of The Band's legendary The Last Waltz concert, Robbie Robertson finally tells his own spellbinding story of the band that changed music history, his extraordinary personal journey, and his creative friendships with some of the greatest artists of the last half-century.

Robbie Robertson's singular contributions to popular music have made him one of the most beloved songwriters and guitarists of his time. With songs like "The Weight," "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," and "Up on Cripple Creek," he and his partners in The Band fashioned music that has endured for decades, influencing countless musicians.
In this captivating memoir, written over five years of reflection, Robbie Robertson employs his unique storyteller's voice to weave together the journey that led him to some of the most pivotal events in music history. He recounts the adventures of his half-Jewish, half-Mohawk upbringing on the Six Nations Indian Reserve and on the gritty streets of Toronto; his odyssey at sixteen to the Mississippi Delta, the fountainhead of American music; the wild, early years on the road with rockabilly legend Ronnie Hawkins and The Hawks; his unexpected ties to the Cosa Nostra underworld; the gripping trial-by-fire "going electric" with Bob Dylan on his 1966 world tour, and their ensuing celebrated collaborations; the formation of The Band and the forging of their unique sound, culminating with history's most famous farewell concert, brought to life for all time in Martin Scorsese's great movie The Last Waltz .
This is the story of a time and place--the moment when rock ʼnʼ roll became life, when legends like Buddy Holly and Bo Diddley crisscrossed the circuit of clubs and roadhouses from Texas to Toronto, when The Beatles, Hendrix, The Stones, and Warhol moved through the same streets and hotel rooms. It's the story of exciting change as the world tumbled through the ʼ60s and early ʼ70s, and a generation came of age, built on music, love, and freedom. Above all, it's the moving story of the profound friendship among five young men who together created a new kind of popular music .
Testimony is Robbie Robertson's story, lyrical and true, as only he could tell it.
Publisher: Toronto :, Alfred A. Knopf Canada,, [2016]
ISBN: 9780307401397
Branch Call Number: 781.66 ROB
Characteristics: 500 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm

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pmaison
Aug 09, 2017

I think the comment by "bwinlr" nails it (see below).

The signing over of song writing credits by the others is made out to have come about in a totally above-board manner by Robbie Robertson's telling of the story. But that sure isn't the sense that I got from Levon's book, or in the fact that the band members became, to varying degrees, estranged from RR.

There's no doubting Robbie Robertson's genius as a songwriter -- & as a guitartist, too. The Band's music was important and unique because of him. But for me they were truly distinct as a band because, as compared to so many other groups, The Band's music at its finest could be so magically much greater than any of its individual parts.

Mark_Daly May 29, 2017

Robertson's guitar skills and transparent ambition earned him a front-row seat to the flowering of rock in the 1960s and 1970s. By age 18, he had already met scores of rockabilly and blues greats while touring relentlessly with front man and old-style rocker Ronnie Hawkins. His subsequent encounters with Dylan, Hendrix, and the Beatles -- not to mention Jack Ruby, Allen Ginsberg, Tiny Tim, Carly Simon, Marlon Brando, Henry Miller, several Canadian gangsters and con men, plus one glorious afternoon with Sonny Boy Williamson -- here have the air of well-rehearsed tales, but it's nice to see them strung together. Without drawing undue attention to it, Robertson also takes pains to present his side of the financial and management disputes that his bandmates aired in earlier accounts. The story wraps up shortly after The Last Waltz, making clear that nothing has equaled the intensity of these years in Robertson's long career.

u
uncommonreader
May 22, 2017

In this account of "The Band", Robertson does not reveal too much or address pubic controversies. Regardless, he is a great musician and songwriter who captured the zeitgeist of an age and went on after "The Band" to create some very beautiful music.

b
bwinlr
Apr 11, 2017

"Testimony" is a book that needs to be read in conjunction with Levon Helm's 1993 "This Wheel's On Fire" in order to get an accurate perspective on The Band's career. The two books provide very different views, and the truth likely lies somewhere in between.

With The Band, Mr. Robertson was a very talented guitarist and songwriter. He was also very ambitious and a "social climber" of impressive dimensions. Mr.Helm was the drummer and one of the vocalists for the group, and much more of pure musician uninterested in political maneuverings.

Reading Mr. Robertson's book, one comes away wondering if he was born in Nazereth of a virgin birth. He suggests strongly that he was the main creative force in the band, and that the others were simply very talented accompanists to him.

Mr. Helm paints quite a different picture of Mr. Robertson, i.e., with the beginning of the end occurring with their first album, when Mr. Robertson claimed exclusive songwriting credit for most of the songs to their surprise. This pattern continued, despite the fact that the development of their songs seemed to occur in a collegial manner, with various band members contributing words and imagery to the songs. Those contributions went largely uncredited.

For me, the most telling thing about Mr. Robertson's book is the timing of its publication: 2016. Mr. Helm's book was published in 1993. Then Mr. Helm, Richard Manuel and Rick Danko died in the interim, so there was no one left alive (except for the reclusive Garth Hudson) to question Mr. Robertson's highly self-serving account of history. That suggests to me that Mr. Helm's book might be the more credible one of the two.

s
sullivans
Mar 13, 2017

The first half of this book is an engaging read, with a strong narrative drive... Full of strange and sometimes wonderful anecdotes about Robertson's strange and wonderfully charmed life (music, close criminal relations, backdoor sex... later drugs) and the open-minded, free-spirited, multi-influenced (Delta blues, Chicago blues, rockabilly, country, hillbilly and gospel) early years of r&r, notably, of the American southeast and Toronto scenes. However, the story bogs down, shortly after Robertson and (most of) the rest of the Hawks hook up with Bob Dylan in 1965. Robertson's musings become repetitive and tiresome, especially since what passes for introspection lacks real depth.

r
roddemerling
Jan 08, 2017

Testimony is a rollicking, freewheeling account of Robbie Robertson's formative years as a musician, rising from his rock-a-billy roots playing neighbouring small halls to the glorious final concert of The Band. It is a series of well crafted tales chronicling a wealth of characters, crime and cocaine as Robertson navigates life (his first half anyway) on the road. I'm sure he has a storehouse of stories that will make for an interesting document of the last forty years.

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