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Testimony

In his memoir, Robbie Robertson uses his unique voice to weave together the journey that led him to some of the most pivotal events in music history.

Robbie Robertson

(Vintage Canada)

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. (From Knopf Canada)   

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From the book

One day Levon said, "Hey, Robbie, come with me. Let's go visit my folks. I'm gonna show you Marvell, Arkansas, gateway to Indian Bay." We'd be driving up in Ron's big white '59 Cadillac Sedan DeVille. He smiled. "That'll turn some heads."

On the way, he searched the radio dial, lit a Winston cigarette, told me about local legend Sonny Boy Williamson and drove, all at the same time. Sonny Boy had a show on Helena radio station KFFA. "That's over on Cherry Street, 1250 on the AM dial," Levon told me. "At 12:15 King Biscuit Flour presents Sonny Boy Williamson and his King Biscuit Entertainers. Brought to you by Sonny Boy Cornmeal!" Levon mouthed the sound of a blues harp. "Wah-oo-whaaa! And that's just how the show gets started." He laughed. "They call it West Memphis Blues!"


From Testimony by Robbie Robertson ©2016. Published by Knopf Canada.

Author interviews

Robbie Robertson on his memoir Testimony, about his personal and musical journey through the 1960s and ‘70s. 19:42

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