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.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
An iBooks Best of 2016 pick. Recounted in the rambling, melodic cadence of a folk-rock bard, Robbie Robertson’s memoir is a captivating tour through the Canadian musician’s ascent and acme. The book covers everything from his stint as a scrappy upstart backing Ronnie Hawkins through his glory days with The Band. Like The Last Waltz, Testimony offers backstage glimpses into the life of travelling rock ’n’ rollers. Robertson is a particularly stellar storyteller—his anecdotes are anchored in vivid language and rich details. Reading this book is like slipping backstage to hobnob with Hell’s Angels and the hirsute legends of rock.
Robertson, guitarist and songwriter for the Band, highlights his career, from his early days with Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks to the last waltz of the Band in 1976. A masterly storyteller, Robertson easily draws readers into tales of his youth and of his days with Bob Dylan. He describes the eventual formation of the Band and the group's quick climb to fame. For the first time, Robertson tells his side of the story regarding his relationship with fellow Band member Levon Helm. In their early days, the two were close friends, but in late 1969, on the way home from a show, Robertson recalls that Helm lied to him about his drug use, and Robertson recalls: "Things changed in that moment. A distance grew between Levon and me that I don't know if we were ever able to mend." Throughout, Robertson provides an intimate look at the making of the Band's farewell concert at Winterland the Last Waltz and describes the exhilaration, relief, and sadness of the night and the following days. Though it would have been nice if Robertson had included reflections on life since the Band and his own substantial solo career, this long-awaited and colorfully told memoir paints a masterpiece of a life in rock and roll.
Left me in tears!
Better than the Springsteen biography Born to Run, and I love Springsteen. Robertson gives insight into Canadian and rock music history. A joy to read.