Robbie Robertson of The Band Pens Memoir

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Robbie Robertson Testimony BookFans of The Band will finally have the chance to read the story of one of the most vital and influential American groups of all time from the point of view of its guitarist and chief songwriter, Robbie Robertson. Testimony, the autobiography of the man behind “The Weight,” “Up on Cripple Creek” and so many more classic rock staples, is coming to bookstores on November 15, several days before the 40th anniversary of The Band’s legendary farewell concert, the Last Waltz.

In the 336-page tome Robertson recalls his early years as a member of the Hawks, backing Canadian rockabilly artist Ronnie Hawkins, then divulges the heady days accompanying Bob Dylan as he evolved from folkie to rocker; the recording sessions in the basement of the Saugerties, N.Y., home (next to Woodstock) known as Big Pink; and the Band’s rise and fall from the late ’60s through their 1976 split.

Advance promotion on the book does not say whether Robertson will discuss his fallout with the other former members of the group, particularly drummer Levon Helm, who was quite vocal in his contempt for Robertson as the musicians grew apart. Helm told his side of the tale in his own memoir, This Wheel’s on Fire: Levon Helm and the Story of the Band. He died in 2012 without having reconciled with Robertson.

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The publisher’s description of Testimony is as follows:

“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.”

Related: Photographer Elliott Landy discusses his book on The Band

Best Classic Bands Staff

4 Comments so far

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  1. Baskin
    #1 Baskin 6 August, 2016, 01:07

    This book will be the antidote for Levon Helm’s bitter, hateful memoir. I’ll read Robbie’s book by the light of Levon’s book as it burns beside me in the darkness.

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    • poot
      poot 6 August, 2016, 10:17

      initially, i thought your comment smacked of facism (book burning? really?). then, i thought you just didn’t like levon, or didn’t read his entire memoir. further, it reminds me of someone who believes everything they read. finally, i realized you must be joking.

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  2. Seashell
    #2 Seashell 6 August, 2016, 09:52

    I was under the impression Levon and Robbie did reconcile, or at the very least Robbie went to see him. A Google search brings up several references:

    “I went to the hospital and I saw him, and I spent an hour holding his hand. Then a day, or a couple of days later, he passed on. I was relieved that I was able to get there, and just be there with him.”

    Reply this comment
  3. Tony
    #3 Tony 6 August, 2016, 10:39

    From the article: “He died in 2012 without having reconciled with Robertson.”

    Robbie Robertson on “George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight” in 2012:

    “I did the [Rock & Roll Hall of Fame] induction ceremony, and then flew directly to New York and went to the hospital and I saw him, and I spent an hour holding his hand. Then a day, or a couple of days later, he passed on. I was relieved that I was able to get there, and just be there with him.”

    Reply this comment

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