Obviously, Robertson is getting the last word with this long book. And yet his strong point of view is offset by the tenderness he shows, and his stress on his own experience is set within a craftsman's effort to tell the story whole…Testimony is high-spirited, hugely enjoyable and generous from start to finish. Just as the Band…learned from their peers who peaked earlier, so Robertson seems to have kept an eye on his friends Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton so as to make his autobiography a late, great pendant to theirs.
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 placethe 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.
[Testimony] is confident and well oiled. At times it has the mythic sweep of an early Terrence Malick movie…Mr. Robertson…occasionally leans too heavily on mythopoeticism. But just as often his writing is wonderfully perceptive.
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. (Nov.)
A Rolling Stone Top 10 Music Book of 2016
"Robertson’s book is written with a full range of literary devices… his strong point of view is offset by the tenderness he shows, and his stress on his own experience is set within a craftsman’s effort to tell the story whole — an effort to do justice to their adventures as young men, talented, stylish, successful and lucky, who knew the joy of creative friendship… Testimony is high-spirited, hugely enjoyable and generous from start to finish.” —New York Times Book Review
“Robust, wry, gritty and wise.” —The Wall Street Journal
"Confident and well oiled. At times it has the mythic sweep of an early Terrence Malick movie."—New York Times
"Robertson has the same knack for cinematic storytelling that he displays in his songs…Testimony reads like one long, grand adventure through rock's golden age, as told by a world-class raconteur."—Billboard
"Captivating... this is essential reading."—Rolling Stone
"Testimony proves that Robertson is an immensely capable storyteller and a keen observer of the gifts of others."—New Yorker
"Astonishing... [Testimony is full of] detail and remarkable intimacy."—Esquire
"A riveting memoir from the Band guitarist, who chronicles his journey from the Six Nations Indian Reserve to the heart of rock and roll."—People Magazine
"Mr. Robertson is a natural storyteller...Testimony shines."—Pittsburgh Post Gazette
"There's a lot of rock and roll history in the life and times of Robbie Robertson...Robertson delves deeply into [the Band's] tale in his memoir Testimony, tracing their evolution from bar band to Rock and Roll Hall of Famers"—New York Daily News
“Robertson recalls all the key moments of an eventful life with a songwriter's eye for detail… Essential for any devotee of the Band, Dylan, or rock music in the last half of the 20th century.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"This long-awaited and colorfully told memoir paints a masterpiece of a life in rock and roll." —Publishers Weekly, starred review
"Robertson is a masterful and engaging storyteller who brings his genius for hitting the right note in the right place to his melodious and riveting memoir...." —No Depression
“Robbie Robertson’s Testimony is a book of memories and wonders, a personal testament of a magical time in American music from someone who was there, at the center of it all, playing and casting spells and writing songs that helped define those great lost years. There’s history here, and anecdote, regret and reminiscence, a long fond look back at the trials and triumphs of finding your voice then holding your ground. The tone is easy, conversational, like reminiscing with a friend about things you never realized you were part of too. Robbie brings you along with him, keeps you right by his side first to last, just the way his songs do, drawing you close, spellbound by his easy sorcery. You can feel the music in every word.” —Martin Scorsese
"Well, once I started, I couldn’t put it down. It is such a well-paced, well-structured narrative. Robertson's voice is powerful and strong. He has harnessed vivid language to a clean, elegant, writing style, and the sense of honesty, openness, and completeness makes it so very compelling. The personal and the historic that he bears witness to is, of course, extraordinarily special. One of the best documents of our times. And one of the best books on rock and roll ever written." —Jann Wenner
"Nobody tells a story like Robbie Robertson. I can’t think of a memoir that is more compelling, fascinating, or rich in history. Across every page you can feel his love, passion, and musical genius.” —David Geffen
Robertson, songwriter and guitarist for the Band, who essentially defined Americana rock with their mixture of folk, blues, country, and rock with lyrics that mined history and timeless themes, has written a fascinating personal memoir. This lyricist with strong storytelling skills writes with an evocative voice that moves the narrative from sweaty Southern clubs to an artistic community in the New York Catskills to venues before huge audiences. Robertson recalls the five men of the Band and the bonds that were formed, tested, and sometimes frayed in the alchemy of creating music. From their early days with Ronnie Hawkins to backing Bob Dylan and creating with him the famous Basement Tapes to massive success on their own with the making of the farewell concert film The Last Waltz, this is a revealing look at a rock life of the 1960s and 1970s, featuring cameos from dozens of celebrities of the time and populated by a carnivalesque cast of supporting characters. VERDICT Writing about both small scene-stealing moments and of major life events with equal vigor, detail, and reflection, Robertson documents a crucially influential band and era. This book will enrich and delight any rock fan.—James Collins, Morristown-Morris Twp. P.L., NJ
Nothing forges the bonds of brotherhood like life in a band, especially when it’s the Band.“When you awake, you will remember everything,” Robertson once wrote; true to form, this debut memoir—covering the life of Robertson and the Band up to the legendary “Last Waltz” concert in 1976—doesn’t miss a thing. Whether running interference for a gangster uncle, taking B12 shots with Edie Sedgwick, or hanging with Bob Dylan at Big Pink, Robertson recalls all the key moments of an eventful life with a songwriter’s eye for detail. Part Indian, part Jewish, and a Canadian native who would adopt and reinvent American music, Robertson learned his trade as a barely legal member of the Hawks, the backing band of rockabilly American transplant Ronnie Hawkins. After years of playing together, the Hawks left Hawkins and were soon touring with Dylan. It was a Faustian bargain—the group famously endured nightly boos as Dylan tortured the folkies with his electric guitars and amps—but the association also led to the most productive periods in the lives of everyone involved. Robertson is especially strong at capturing the Band’s life with Dylan, where a shared spontaneity would inform both Dylan’s legendary “Basement Tapes” and the Band’s classic first albums. “Songs poured out of Bob and we tore through them; if lightning struck and you weren’t around, the show went on without you,” writes the author. What distinguishes the book more than anything is that, besides being Robertson’s story, it’s also a memoriam for the Band, a deeply felt thanatopsis for a group of renegades who were never better than when they were together. The picture may be a bit too rosy; post-breakup, Robertson was permanently at odds with the late Levon Helm over publishing credits. The author addresses the issue but not the fallout. Essential for any devotee of the Band, Dylan, or rock music in the last half of the 20th century.
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