I think the comment by "bwinlr" nails it (see below).
The signing over of song writing credits by the others is made out to have come about in a totally above-board manner by Robbie Robertson's telling of the story. But that sure isn't the sense that I got from Levon's book, or in the fact that the band members became, to varying degrees, estranged from RR.
There's no doubting Robbie Robertson's genius as a songwriter -- & as a guitartist, too. The Band's music was important and unique because of him. But for me they were truly distinct as a band because, as compared to so many other groups, The Band's music at its finest could be so magically much greater than any of its individual parts.
Robertson's guitar skills and transparent ambition earned him a front-row seat to the flowering of rock in the 1960s and 1970s. By age 18, he had already met scores of rockabilly and blues greats while touring relentlessly with front man and old-style rocker Ronnie Hawkins. His subsequent encounters with Dylan, Hendrix, and the Beatles -- not to mention Jack Ruby, Allen Ginsberg, Tiny Tim, Carly Simon, Marlon Brando, Henry Miller, several Canadian gangsters and con men, plus one glorious afternoon with Sonny Boy Williamson -- here have the air of well-rehearsed tales, but it's nice to see them strung together. Without drawing undue attention to it, Robertson also takes pains to present his side of the financial and management disputes that his bandmates aired in earlier accounts. The story wraps up shortly after The Last Waltz, making clear that nothing has equaled the intensity of these years in Robertson's long career.
In this account of "The Band", Robertson does not reveal too much or address pubic controversies. Regardless, he is a great musician and songwriter who captured the zeitgeist of an age and went on after "The Band" to create some very beautiful music.
"Testimony" is a book that needs to be read in conjunction with Levon Helm's 1993 "This Wheel's On Fire" in order to get an accurate perspective on The Band's career. The two books provide very different views, and the truth likely lies somewhere in between.
With The Band, Mr. Robertson was a very talented guitarist and songwriter. He was also very ambitious and a "social climber" of impressive dimensions. Mr.Helm was the drummer and one of the vocalists for the group, and much more of pure musician uninterested in political maneuverings.
Reading Mr. Robertson's book, one comes away wondering if he was born in Nazereth of a virgin birth. He suggests strongly that he was the main creative force in the band, and that the others were simply very talented accompanists to him.
Mr. Helm paints quite a different picture of Mr. Robertson, i.e., with the beginning of the end occurring with their first album, when Mr. Robertson claimed exclusive songwriting credit for most of the songs to their surprise. This pattern continued, despite the fact that the development of their songs seemed to occur in a collegial manner, with various band members contributing words and imagery to the songs. Those contributions went largely uncredited.
For me, the most telling thing about Mr. Robertson's book is the timing of its publication: 2016. Mr. Helm's book was published in 1993. Then Mr. Helm, Richard Manuel and Rick Danko died in the interim, so there was no one left alive (except for the reclusive Garth Hudson) to question Mr. Robertson's highly self-serving account of history. That suggests to me that Mr. Helm's book might be the more credible one of the two.
The first half of this book is an engaging read, with a strong narrative drive... Full of strange and sometimes wonderful anecdotes about Robertson's strange and wonderfully charmed life (music, close criminal relations, backdoor sex... later drugs) and the open-minded, free-spirited, multi-influenced (Delta blues, Chicago blues, rockabilly, country, hillbilly and gospel) early years of r&r, notably, of the American southeast and Toronto scenes. However, the story bogs down, shortly after Robertson and (most of) the rest of the Hawks hook up with Bob Dylan in 1965. Robertson's musings become repetitive and tiresome, especially since what passes for introspection lacks real depth.
Testimony is a rollicking, freewheeling account of Robbie Robertson's formative years as a musician, rising from his rock-a-billy roots playing neighbouring small halls to the glorious final concert of The Band. It is a series of well crafted tales chronicling a wealth of characters, crime and cocaine as Robertson navigates life (his first half anyway) on the road. I'm sure he has a storehouse of stories that will make for an interesting document of the last forty years.
There are no age suitabilities for this title yet.
There are no summaries for this title yet.
There are no notices for this title yet.
There are no quotes for this title yet.