The former Eternal Fiancee’, now newly-minted wife, is a huge fan of The Band and since meeting her the Skeptical Cardiologist’s appreciation for this special rock band has blossomed. When Robbie Robertson, the guitarist, main songwriter and co-founder of The Band came out with his autobiography, “Testimony,” she purchased it and I read it voraciously. It’s a great read because Robertson is a great storyteller.
Beyond his expected stories of early days touring with first Ronnie Hawkins then Bob Dylan, Robertson seems to have partied with every rock icon of the seventies. (The newly-minted wife calls him the Forest Gump of the 60s and 70s music scene.)
The storytelling abilities of Robertson are at the heart of a new documentary which we watched at the Tivoli in the nearby Delmar Loop. As described on Rotten Tomatoes:
Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band is a confessional, cautionary, and occasionally humorous tale of Robbie Robertson’s young life and the creation of one of the most enduring groups in the history of popular music, The Band. The film is a moving story of Robertson’s personal journey, overcoming adversity and finding camaraderie alongside the four other men who would become hi brothers in music and who together made their mark on music history. Once Were Brothers blends rare archival footage, photography iconic songs and interviews with many of Robertson’s friends and collaborators including Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison Martin Scorsese, Peter Gabriel, Taj Mahal, Dominique Robertson, Ronnie Hawkins, and more.
As huge fans of The Band we loved this movie. For those who appreciate music and its creative process I highly recommend catching it in a real cinema while you can.
The Riverfront Times has an excellent and enthusiastic review here which gives a good feel for the contents of the documentary.
Robertson began playing guitar with Ronnie Hawkins as a 15-year-old after his band opened for The Hawks in Canada. I had not appreciated the energy of Hawkins’ live shows until this video appeared early in the documentary.
This was from a 1959 lip-synced performance on Dick Clark’s Saturday Night Beechnut Show. Note a very young Levon Helm on the drums. Levon and Robbie would leave Hawkins and form their own group.