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Biography & Autobiography Personal Memoirs


A Memoir

by (author) Robbie Robertson

Knopf Canada
Initial publish date
Oct 2017
Personal Memoirs, Composers & Musicians, Rock
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Nov 2016
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2017
    List Price

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New York Times and National Bestseller
On the fortieth anniversary of The Band’s legendary The Last Waltz concert, Robbie Robertson finally tells his own spellbinding story of the band that changed music history, his extraordinary personal journey, and his creative friendships with some of the greatest artists of the last half-century.

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.    
   Testimony is Robbie Robertson’s story, lyrical and true, as only he could tell it.

About the author


  • Long-listed, Penderyn Music Book Prize

Contributor Notes

ROBBIE ROBERTSON was the guitarist and principal songwriter in The Band. He grew up in Toronto and on the Brantford Six Nations Reserve before heading to Arkansas to join Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks. He has produced many movie soundtracks for Martin Scorsese, including Raging Bull, and others, and continues to record as a solo artist. His most recent record, How to Become Clairvoyant, came out in 2011. His support of NA Native Music has been galvanizing. Robertson is also one of the coauthors of the children's book Legends, Icons & Rebels. He lives in Los Angeles and visits Canada often.

Editorial Reviews

Longlisted for the 2017 Penderyn Music Book Prize

“The guitarist and principal songwriter with The Band has a new memoir out, and it cements his reputation as a master storyteller.” —Guelph Mercury Tribune
Testimony will please hardcore Robertson fans.” —National Post
“[T]he ultimate backstage pass.” —Canadian Living

[A] rollicking, detailed memoir that covers the near-mythical beginnings and dynamic final chapter of one of modern music’s most beloved and enigmatic acts. . . . [Robertson] gives readers a beautifully rendered story arc, starting with his upbringing in Toronto and on the Six Nations Reserve and ending with an intimate, first-person account of The Band’s star-studded 1976 farewell concert, The Last Waltz. . . . Testimony contains enough anecdotes for twenty lifetimes. . . Throughout it all, Robertson uses that fine-tuned memory to put readers in the middle of pivotal chapters in pop-culture history. . . . But the heart of Testimony is Robertson’s friendship with his four bandmates.” —Calgary Herald

“[Robbie’s] book is wonderful. Beautifully written. Deep. Honest. Moving. Extremely funny. It was more than enough to have lived it, another thing altogether to share an understanding of it no one else can or ever will have. My hat is off, Sir.” —Jez Butterworth

“Anyone who has seen The Last Waltz or followed the career of Robbie Robertson knows that he is the consummate storyteller. Now with Testimony, the co-founder, singer-songwriter, guitarist for The Band, finally gets to tell these great stories in full. Robbie Robertson finally culls all of these extraordinary tales in this expansive new memoir. . . . Whether he’s discussing his relationships within The Band or his various encounters with some of rock’s biggest movers and shakers, Robertson tells it all with warmth, grace, humor and remarkable insight. This is a must read for any fan of The Band and for anyone interested in music as a whole.” —The Interrobang
“Anyone who’s seen The Last Waltz . . . knows Robbie Robertson is a great storyteller. . . . Robertson’s five hundred-page memoir finds the Canadian singer/songwriter putting those narrative skills to highly entertaining use in bringing to life a saga that starts with his Toronto childhood (with interludes at Ontario’s Six Nations Indian Reserve) and builds to that star-studded night at Winterland.” —The Philadelphia Inquirer
Mr. Robertson is a natural storyteller. . . . Testimony shines in the opening chapters, as Robbie Robertson recounts his early years running down the Southern juke joints and Canadian supper clubs as a teenage guitarist with Ronnie Hawkins. . . . He tells an especially funny tale about the night Bo Diddley came to his hotel room and tried to steal his girl.” —Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“Robertson has the same knack for cinematic storytelling that he displays in his songs, and he’s not afraid to dish. . . . Testimony reads like one long, grand adventure through rock’s golden age, as told by a world-class raconteur.” —Billboard
“Robust, wry, gritty and wise to the vicissitudes of a career in rock ’n’ roll, it is just what the reader wants. . . . Mr. Robertson’s writing about music . . . can be beautiful.” —The Wall Street Journal
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. . . . [H]is writing is wonderfully perceptive.” —Dwight Garner, The New York Times
“[T]his debut memoir . . . doesn’t miss a thing. . . . Essential for any devotee of the Band, Dylan or rock music in the last half of the twentieth century.” —Kirkus Reviews
A masterly storyteller, Robertson easily draws readers into tales of his youth and of his days with Bob Dylan. . . . Throughout, Robertson provides an intimate look at the making of the Band’s farewell concert at Winterland—the Last Waltz—and describes the exhilaration, relief, and sadness of the night and the following days. . . . [T]his long-awaited and colorfully told memoir paints a masterpiece of a life in rock and roll.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

[T]his debut memoir . . . doesn’t miss a thing. . . . Robertson recalls all the key moments of an eventful life with a songwriter’s eye for detail. . . . Robertson is especially strong at capturing the Band’s life with Dylan, where a shared spontaneity would inform both Dylan’s legendary ‘Basement Tapes’ and the Band’s classic first albums. . . . What distinguishes the book more than anything is that, besides being Robertson’s story, it’s also a memoriam for the Band, a deeply felt thanatopsis for a group of renegades who were never better than when they were together. . . . Essential for any devotee of the Band, Dylan, or rock music in the last half of the twentieth century.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“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 center 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.” —Martin Scorsese
“Well, once I started, I couldn’t put it down. It is such a well-paced, well-structured narrative. Robertson's voice is powerful and strong. He has harnessed vivid language to a clean, elegant, writing style, and the sense of honesty, openness, and completeness makes it so very compelling. The personal and the historic that he bears witness to is, of course, extraordinarily specialOne of the best documents of our times. And one of the best books on rock and roll ever written.” —Jann Wenner
Nobody tells a story like Robbie Robertson. I can’t think of a memoir that is more compelling, fascinating, or rich in history. Across every page you can feel his love, passion, and musical genius.” —David Geffen
A masterly storyteller, Robertson easily draws readers into tales of his youth and of his days with Bob Dylan. . . . Throughout, Robertson provides an intimate look at the making of the Band’s farewell concert at Winterland—the Last Waltz—and describes the exhilaration, relief, and sadness of the night and the following days. . . . [T]his long-awaited and colorfully told memoir paints a masterpiece of a life in rock and roll.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

User Reviews

Robertson tells the story of The Band and Dylan

Great book from the musician who had a great personal story to tell and was there on the stage with Dylan and the Band and others of his time.

Other titles by Robbie Robertson