If you're familiar with the roots-rock ensemble The Band, then you undoubtedly know Robbie Robertson, the group's primary songwriter, producer and guitar player extraordinaire. But you might not know that Robertson is a half-Jewish, half-Mohawk Canadian from the Six Nations of the Grand River reserve in Ontario, or that his main musical influences include southern blues, rock and jazz. Those details—and more—are laid out in this extensive memoir, written over five years of reflection, which recounts Robertson's start on the streets of Toronto all the way through to The Band's legendary goodbye concert, captured by Martin Scorsese in his "rockumentary," The Last Waltz.
Of course, Robertson had a little help from his friends. And they're all here, casually dropped into a narrative that spans decades: Dylan, Hendrix, Clapton, Hawkins and Mitchell, plus guest appearances by a couple of Rolling Stones and Beatles. But while Robertson's list of contributions and collaborations is impressive, it's his attention to musical detail that makes this a must-read for any lover of '60s and '70s rock 'n' roll. Day-by-day accounts, guitar changes, amp issues, chord progressions, sonic breakthroughs—you can consider Testimony the ultimate backstage pass.
Testimony (Knopf Canada) by Robbie Robertson, $35.