Wednesday, March 20, 2019

"Testimony", a memoir by Robbie Robertson

This book was published in 2016 and when the paperback came out in 2017 Amazon delivered it here.  At that time, the reading began but the book did not seem to have any real point of view, or coherence.  It was --- then I went here, then I did that, then I met so and so, and on and on.  After a few chapters, it was put down in a stack on the kitchen table, a reading spot.  Reading places gather books.  There is a small stack on my bedside table, more on the floor beside the bed.  There are several stacks next to the living room chair, and another stack next to the chair in the sitting area upstairs in front of the television.  That's an aside meant to suggest that books accumulate here.  "Testimony" had been among the accumulated that did not deserve a place on a bookshelf as having been read.

In fact, for probably the last six months, it had been the paperback that had just enough heft to be used to hold open hardback books that were being read at lunch.  It was useful.  A few days ago it was serving that purpose when a book was finished, and my lunch not finished.  What to do?  Read "Testimony".  I turned randomly to a page in the middle of the book and began reading, for an hour or more, lunch long done. Everyone in 1960's music seems to be in this book.  Lots of accounts of events with Dylan, and daily experiences with him, but also everyone from Mike Bloomfield and Paul Butterfield  and on to Jimi Hendrix at the beginning, before he went to London and became famous. The Beatles, John, Paul, George, and Ringo of course, are popping up from time to time.  Edie Sedgewick, Andy Warhol, Nico, that crowd as well.  The Chelsea Hotel shows up as the dominant digs for many. How about a trip with Bob to visit Salvador Dali at his suite in the St. Regis on 55th.  It all comes across like a circle of friends and acquaintances in everyday circumstances.

Looking back, here comes a generalization,  warning as they are never fair but often have some validity.  Robbie Robertson and The Band are from Canada. When traveling over the years, I developed a view of Canadians as pleasant people, nice observers.  When talking they did not voice any strong opinions.  Almost all Americans do.  Big difference.  In the past, whenever meeting Canadians they were viewed as boring because of that, even in business situations.  This book has a touch of that quality that was once an unfair internal generalization.  It is a litany of events, so many events and people from page to page that it is like that old saying, "trying to drink water from a fire hose." The writing mostly presents events with little interpretation.

That accepted, I now see that this as a pretty exceptional book.  Recommended to fans of music from that era, and what lived on. 


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