10 Best Music Books of 2016

From the stage to the page: The year's best memoirs, essay collections and more

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'Testimony,' by Robbie Robertson

'Testimony,' by Robbie Robertson

Twenty-three years ago the Band drummer Levon Helm published This Wheel's on Fire, a memoir that seemed designed to air out his many beefs with Band guitarist Robbie Robertson. With Helm now four years gone, Robertson is finally having his say. Reading Testimony alone, one would think that Robertson and Helm were lifelong buddies, even if the drummer's drinking and drug use briefly drove a wedge between them. That's because Robertson ends his book with The Last Waltz in 1976, wisely going nowhere near the Band's dispute over money and credit that raged for decades after their fabled final show. But Testimony wasn't written to settle scores or re-litigate old fights: It was written to give the first truly in-depth look at the Band's history. Bob Dylan fans will love the blow-by-blow account of the mythical electric tour of 1965 and 1966, but equally captivating is the Band's pre-history playing an endless series of one night stands with rockabilly icon Ronnie Hawkins. Robertson seems to have a photographic memory, recreating moments from 1963 with amazing detail. Whatever side you take in the Helm/Robertson dispute, this is essential reading. A.G.

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