Across the Great Divide: The Band and America


A vivid and rollicking biography of one of the great, iconic bands of the 1960s and 70s.

The Band was one of the most celebrated and influential groups to arrive on the music scene in the late sixties. The Band's members -- four Canadians: Robbie Robertson, Richard Manuel, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, and a drummer from Arkansas, Levon Helm -- fashioned something magically new ...
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A vivid and rollicking biography of one of the great, iconic bands of the 1960s and 70s.

The Band was one of the most celebrated and influential groups to arrive on the music scene in the late sixties. The Band's members -- four Canadians: Robbie Robertson, Richard Manuel, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, and a drummer from Arkansas, Levon Helm -- fashioned something magically new out of musically traditional components: old-time country and gospel, Preservation Hall jazz, medicine-show vaudeville.

Starting out as a backing group for Ronnie Hawkins before being propelled onto the world stage by Bob Dylan, The Band retreated from the psychedelic circus of 60s' rock to produce two of the most revered albums of the era. Music from the Big Pink and The Band, were remarkable recordings which steered rock 'n' roll back to its funky rural roots. In this vivid account of the group's journey, Barney Hoskyns spans the entire course of American rock and brilliantly captures the raw magic and complex personalities of these "musician's musicians."
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In a saga spanning three decades, British journalist Hoskyns ( From a Whisper to a Scream: The Great Voices of Popular Music ) chronicles the story of the critically acclaimed rock group, the Band. As the 1960s dawned, a shared interest in the music of the American South brought Arkansas drummer-vocalist Levon Helm together with four Canadians: guitarists Robbie Robertson and Rick Danko, vocalist Richard Manuel and keyboardist Garth Hudson. Known as the Hawks, they backed up Bob Dylan after his notorious acoustic-to-electric switch; later, they perfected a style of their own at a Woodstock, N.Y., house dubbed ``Big Pink.'' In 1968, their first album as the Band was released, and subsequent hits included ``The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.'' This account relies heavily on quotations from the likes of critic Greil Marcus, performer Eric Clapton and late promoter Bill Graham. Where-are-they-now final chapters investigate the years after the Band's 1976 split: Robertson pursued Hollywood interests, Manuel committed suicide in 1986 and the others continued solo work. Of the Band's lineup, Robertson proves by far the most loquacious, making this volume a bonanza for his fans in particular, as well as for Dylan aficionados. Photos. (July)
Library Journal
Implicit within the redemptive qualities commonly ascribed to rock'n'roll is the metaphor of the band/musician as leaders in a spiritual search. The hyperbole that typically ensues from such metaphors is entirely appropriate in reference to The Band, the seminal folk/country/rock group whose recordings, made from 1968 to 1978, psychically imprinted an entire generation. That a predominantly Canadian group should have been so transfixed by, and subsequently successful at, articulating deeply rooted American themes is just one of the seeming paradoxes that Hoskyns explores in this first major study. Borrowing heavily from both previously documented and self-conducted interviews, Hoskyns connects the dots that link The Band with Ronnie Hawkins, Bob Dylan, Woodstock, and the concert film The Last Waltz (1978). Cumulatively, the effect of this treatment is ponderous; Greil Marcus's classic essay ``The Band: Pilgrims' Progress'' in Mystery Train ( LJ 4/1/75), from which Hoskyns liberally borrows, is more revelatory. Still, this solid treatment of an influential group belongs in most popular music collections.-- Barry X. Miller, Austin P.L., Tex.
From the Publisher
“A fine meditation on the Canadians who mythologized America.” — Esquire

“Hoskyns has managed to make the less glamorous business of being a band come so alive. The attention to fluctuations in group chemistry and morale, on stage and in the studio, is steeped in the author’s engaging fascination with the minutiae of how rock music gets made. It makes for a surprisingly refreshing and admirable read.” — Sunday Times

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781423414421
  • Publisher: Hal Leonard Corporation
  • Publication date: 11/28/2006
  • Edition description: Revised
  • Pages: 468
  • Sales rank: 574,925
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Barney Hoskyns was born in 1959 and began writing for the New Musical Express after leaving Oxford. His other books include Say it One Time for the Brokenhearted and Imp of the Perverse.

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  • Posted May 30, 2009

    Great Book on Great Band

    The Band is simultaneously one of the least and most documented modern American musical groups. Hoskyns fills in the gaps with the backstories of the individual members, tracking their time spent backing Ronnie Hawkins and Bob Dylan, and offering some really great details on the artists' techniques and personalities. What makes the book outstanding is its cataloging of Band members' statements over the years on music in general, the industry, various other artists, America, their collective and individual musical ambitions, and (of most interest to the fan) their songs.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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