Friday, March 3, 2017

Testimony by Robbie Robertson

Robbie Robertson is best known as the guitarist and songwriter for The Band  who penned such memorable classic songs as “The Weight,” “Up on Cripple Creek,” and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” among many others.  The Band was an eclectic group of musicians who backed up Bob Dylan during his transformative years and released the seminal album “Music from Big Pink” in 1968. Robertson covers the Band’s inception and evolving musical journey that culminated in the 1976 Martin Scorsese film documenting The Band’s final live appearance in “The Last Waltz.”

In between, the autobiographical Testimony brings to life a musical journey for Robertson that began at age 16 when he left his home in Canada to join Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks. Robertson’s heritage is half-Mohawk and his storytelling nature makes for an interesting read. He became close friends with Dylan and mingled with a veritable who’s who of the 60’s and 70’s including every member of the Beatles, Joni Mitchell, David Geffen, Cher, Edie Sedgewick, Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young, Carly Simon, James Taylor and many more.

As a result, the reader is treated with a rich understanding of the evolving music scene and an inside view of a band of musical brothers who are hardened by life on the road; including drugs and other excesses, and eventually burned out by that same highway. Five hundred pages in length, “Testimony” is a large book. However, it engages the reader and Robertson’s ability to weave story after story makes for an easy read.

In a recent interview Robertson explained that the original manuscript was edited down from an original, imposing 800 pages. Those familiar with Robertson’s life know that his talents took him on further artistic journeys beyond the end of the book which covers only up to 1976. As a result, fans can look forward to the second book that will surely include his solo albums, film scores, and acting projects up to the present. Robbie Robertson has lived an interesting life and “Testimony” is a fine addition to rock musical autobiographies.