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Testimony by Robbie Robertson


by Robbie Robertson

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1137163,412 (4.26)1
In this captivating memoir, Robbie Robertson shares the journey that led him to some of the most pivotal events in music history. Robertson and his partners in The Band fashioned a music that has endured for decades, influencing countless musicians. One of the most beloved songwriters and guitarists of his time, now he employs his storyteller's voice to weave together the journey that led him to some of the most pivotal events in music history. It's the story of a time when rock 'n' roll became life, when music legends moved through the same streets and hotel rooms, and above all, the profound friendship among five young men who together created a new kind of popular music."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 trial by fire of 'going electric' with Bob Dylan on his 1966 world tour, and their ensuing celebrated collaborations; and 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 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 '60s and early '70s, 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."--Dust jacket.… (more)
  1. 00
    This Wheel's on Fire: Levon Helm and the Story of the Band by Levon Helm (Scotland)
    Scotland: Wheel's On Fire fills in many of the cracks left by Testimony even if it was written well before.

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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
This was a thrilling ride for the whole way through. Robertson manages to weave clocks of story together to form a coherent, persuasive, defining, and momentous whole. There are so many anecdotes and short snippets here to savour and take solace in. Being a huge member of The Band, I also found that (since the work revolved around its inception and duration) that this effectually served as both a prime piece for Robertson's life as well as The Band's career. Overall, it was a great ride and I loved every minute of it.

5 stars. ( )
  DanielSTJ | Aug 24, 2019 |
A caveat concerning this review is that I read Robertson's Testimony just after reading Helm's This Wheel's On Fire, and it is safe to say that the two accounts do not mesh well in certain areas. To name a few, would be the treatment of Muddy Waters at the Last Waltz, how the other band members felt about the Last Waltz to begin with, why Richard Manual stopped writing, and the biggie, the publishing.

The way the publishing was handled was the primary cause of animosity between Robertson and Helm; Robertson barely touches upon it, and quite frankly, his account is not very believable. Helm addresses it throughout his book, and while he does sound like a musician scorned, he consistently sticks up for his band mates, and history seems to bear him out.

Testimony itself is very well written, extremely entertaining, and most insightful. Even though it is close to 500 pages, it is still a fast read. But if you are looking for a history of The Band, this may leave you wanting a bit. This book is mostly about Robertson, and while he is an incredible musician and song writer, who lived through one of the most transcendent eras in Rock 'N' Roll, this book often crosses the line from a Who's Who of the period to an exercise in name dropping.

Mostly, if you want to get to better know the members who comprised The Band, I would advise you to get Helm's book; Helm does a great job of developing each member's character throughout his narrative. Robertson too often refers to his band mates as 'the guys' and sometimes gives an obligatory one line description of each, but that is it. They remain cardboard characters.

Finally, at the very end of the book, Robertson describes the day after the Last Waltz when the group was to meet in a recording studio and no one shows up. That's how he ends the book. It is infuriating. If you read Helm's book, well you would know where everyone was on that day. Robertson too often demonstrates his distance from his band mates, which was the complaint about him in the first place.

To summarize, this is the lowest rating that I ever gave a book that I so enjoyed reading. I guess the reason being was that I was a bit frustrated with it. Oh, and Helm's book goes beyond the Last Waltz, he painfully describes both Manuel's and Danko's deaths. Testimony was far better written than Wheel's On Fire, but it is not as satisfying. ( )
  Scotland | Aug 5, 2019 |
This is a great book by one of the true legends of music and one of the great songwriters and leaders of a great band. He discusses his many influences in music. ( )
  ForSusan | Mar 16, 2018 |
In Testimony, this wheel's not quite on fire, and the cup's only half full. The Band is in my top 5 of all time, but I was more a Levon woman than Robbie. He had the reputation of being "it's all about me" which now I see, if his memoir is to be believed, is more that Robbie had more ambition for them than any other single member. He's a good writer as well as being a great songwriter and musician.

One quarter of the book is about The Hawks, one quarter about Dylan, one quarter about The Band. There are some truly outstanding moments. Musicians such as Jimi Hendrix, Van Morrison, and the Beatles (sans Paul) just seem to meander in and out to jam. There's also a great deal of humor and funny stories. My favorite is when Robbie's girlfriend Dominique tells Joni Mitchell to put down her guitar and stop singing so they could all talk!

The Last Waltz, the Band's final concert, ends the book. What? Rick, Richard, and Levon have all died. No mention of that at all. Surprising and I can see no reason. ( )
  froxgirl | Apr 21, 2017 |
I really enjoyed this audiobook of Robbie Robertson's memoir dealing with his life until the break-up of The Band. Robertson talks about growing up in Toronto until, at the age of 16, he joined Ronny Hawkins' band and started touring. He developed his guitar playing chops and started writing songs with Hawkins. He also met the rest of the guys who would go on to form The Band. Levon Helm was the only American in The Band and Robertson and Helm were like brothers for much of the time. He and the other members, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson and Richard Manuel, had all played with Hawkins but they moved on in the mid 60s. They met Bob Dylan and started playing as his back up band when he decided to move into electronic music. Dylan and his family were living in upstate New York in a little town called Woodstock. So Robertson and all the other guys moved up there to work on their own music. It was the people in Woodstock who started calling them "The Band". They cut their first album "Music from Big Pink" and musical history was made. Robertson also talks about meeting the woman who became his wife and their love affair. In fact, Robertson talks about everything from the music to the drugs to the famous people he met without pulling any punches as far as I can see. Drugs were everywhere, part of the rock and roll lifestyle. Robertson managed to stay away from heroin but some of his bandmates were users. In the end it was the drug addiction that did in The Band. But before they completely broke up they did one final concert in San Francisco. If you haven't seen the movie "The Last Waltz" (although there can't be too many of those left in North America) then you might want to see it before you get to that part of the book; but for those of us who have watched it (multiple times for many of us) then this will send you back to watch it again. In fact, that's how I plan to spend this evening. ( )
  gypsysmom | Dec 18, 2016 |
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