New York Times Bestseller • On the 40th 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 a 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 'n' roll became life, when legends like Buddy Holly and Bo Diddley criss-crossed 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 '60s and early 70’s, and a generation came of age, built on music, love and freedom. Above all, it's the moving story of the profound friendship between 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
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 traveling 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.
The Band books
Read Levon’s book now Robbie’s
Both good from different perspectives.
Robinson jumps from event from event like an orangutan leaping from tree to tree. And while he does cover most events, the book comes to a screeching halt at "The Last Waltz" concert in 1976.
After “The Last Waltz” the group never played together again as a band. Robinson it seems just hung up his hat and walked away. Conveniently he’s pushed the Delete Button on the rest of his life. Mysteriously there’s not a word of his titanic riff with Levon Helm who, to quote Robertson, was like the brother he never had. One of the most acrimonious fallouts in rock history which lasted right up until Helm’s death in 2012 was not even a footnote in “Testimony”. Neither was there any mention of Richard Manuel’s bizarre suicide in 1986 nor Rick Danko's untimely demise in 1999. And not a peep about his divorce from his alcoholic wife.
It’s possible Robertson is planning another memoir post 1976. But he shot his wad with this book. He’s not getting another dime out of me.
I enjoyed this book. But like other rock autobiographies, I'm always let down when I learn that people I've placed upon a pedestal and admired for so long have feet of clay. Robbie also spent too much time on his early days. I know Levon hated him to the bitter end, but if it weren't for Robbie, the Band simply would not have existed.