Robbie Robertson - Testimony book review

One man’s Band

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Robbie Robertson was The Band’s main songwriter, guitarist, business brain. After life-changing shows by Otis Redding, Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters, his breathtaking anecdotes can frustratingly lack atmosphere and cultural resonance – including facing hostile crowds in Dylan’s electric band, being visited by Beatles during 1966’s cataclysmic UK tour and hanging with Brando and a pre-Jimi Hendrix.

Fresh Dylan perspectives and insights into The Band’s formation and rise to glory appear before they become like any group that fell to hard drugs, but Robertson’s own excesses are only alluded to before they bow out with 1976’s fabled Last Waltz extravaganza (this book’s grand finalé).

Robertson sometimes seems curiously stunted and inexorably gripped by his own ambitions, falling short of the soulful prose found in drummer Levon Helm’s autobiography, which alleged post-Band publishing skulduggery, but it’s still a worthwhile read for fans.