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 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 of '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 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.
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 centre 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.
[An] elegant, evocative memoir … Robertson was particularly suited to a supporting role, happiest pulling the strings in the background. It’s the perfect vantage point for a memoirist, and he makes the most of it … The first half of the book is a hugely atmospheric song of the road … Midway, Dylan hits the narrative like a firework tossed through a window … Robertson brings the chaos vividly to life … He tells it with style and affection, showing a keen eye for detail.
An entertaining and valuable description of a rock’n’roll apprenticeship punctuated by encounters with such historic figures as Sonny Boy Williamson, Bo Diddley and Muddy Waters. He casts light on a vital phase of Dylan’s career and, of course, on the history of the Band.
For real insight into a musical unit’s workings, it would be hard to beat the Canadian guitarist and songwriter Robbie Robertson’s Testimony…packed with fascinating anecdote.
'We’re deep into the golden age of the classic-rock memoir … Testimony ends when its author was still relatively young, but it is packed with incident … His memoir is confident and well oiled. At times it has the mythic sweep of an early Terrence Malick movie … Mr. Dylan blows into this memoir like a blazing tumbleweed … [Robbie Robertson's] writing is wonderfully perceptive.