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This book about The Band first appeared at around the same time (c. 1993) as This Wheel's on Fire, the memorable account of the group's history written by Levon Helm, its drummer and singer. The two books even use the same photograph on their front covers: the classic shot by Elliott Landy (depicting the five members as stiffly-posed desperados against the backdrop of the Catskill mountains) which did so much to crystalize their image - for example, Elvis Costello says on p210 of this book, "I liked The Band because they had *beards* [...] They didn't look pretty, and they weren't *boys*.".

More pertinently, Hoskyns mentions in his preface that he was unable to interview Helm for this book because he was working on his own account at the time. As a result, this makes more use of the recollections of Robbie Robertson, the guitarist and chief songwriter for The Band. Some of these are extremely insightful - e.g., commenting on their admiration for Booker T. & the MGs, Robertson says (p80), "It seemed that there was no other band in the world who had fathomed that instead of doing a bunch of [stuff] between the verses of a song, it was better to do nothing and just come back in. They kept things real tight, and that's what we tried to do."

Further comparisons with Helm's excellent book would be odious, but Hoskyns is clearly able to take a more detached view of the group's rise and fall, giving praise where it's due (e.g. to their first two extraordinary albums) and being commendably strict where their later work doesn't come up to scratch (this includes Robertson's solo work, notwithstanding the extensive help the author received from him). Somewhat surprisingly, Hoskyns is also unimpressed with the work of fellow journalist Griel Marcus when he writes about The Band: thus, commenting on his essay in the revered collection Mystery Train - which was the introduction to the group for me, and probably many others - Hoskyns (rather gleefully) quotes Robertson as saying he had 'no idea' what he was talking about (p419). All in all however, this is an authoritative account of this important but enigmatic group, which is to be strongly recommended to anyone who's interested in finding out more about them.
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I bought this book for research purposes, whilst preparing an article about the recently deceased singing drummer, Levon Helm. I already knew that Hoskyns is amongst the best writers on popular music working today, having also read his exemplary writings on Tom Waits (Lowside of the Road: A Life of Tom Waits) and the singer-songwriters of the LA/Laurel Canyon scene (Hotel California: Singer-songwriters and Cocaine Cowboys in the L.A. Canyons 1967-1976). Across The Great Divide lives up to the high standards of his other books, being pretty well balanced between getting over the facts and conveying the excitement felt by someone who's clearly an admirer and fan.

Like all his other subjects (at least insofar as the books I've read are concerned), the psychological and emotional topography, appeal and excitement of the book, more or less follows the profile of Hoskyns' subjects careers: the early days and back-story are wonderfully beguiling, full of excitement and promise of things to come; this is followed by the halcyon days, in this case covering a significant chunk of the groups career, first as The Hawks, backing Ronnie Hawkins, then working with Dylan - helping him 'go electric' - and finally becoming 'The Band', and waxing their two most lauded recordings, 'Music from Big Pink', and their second album (in my opinion easily their best, by many a country mile), originally referred to as 'The Brown Album', but now known simply as 'The Band'.

The remainder of the book is still interesting, and worth reading, but it does follow a gradual and almost inexorable downward curve, a sad but oh-so-familiar trajectory: success, indulgence, disintegration, decline, and death. The book already covered the tragic suicide of Richard Manuel, and was subsequently updated to take in Rick Danko's passing. It even has a postscript interview with Helm, added after his first brush with throat cancer. I wonder if the book will be revised again in the wake of his more recent passing?

An excellent and very enjoyable book, about a band whose highest points were indeed sublime. Still, it's a 'sad and beautiful' story, as well as an occasionally exciting and exhilarating one, and I find it intriguing from the point of view of the myth-making and reverence surroundings figures like Dylan and The Band. Thank goodness popular music has at least some writers like Hoskyns, intelligently and articulately chronicling interesting facets of a still-young art form. I'm looking forward to his imminent Zeppelin book, which will of course also cover another dead drum hero amongst the colourful protagonists.
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on 19 May 2015
This is an excellently researched book, covering just about everything you need to know about The Band. I loved the old stories when they were The Hawks, backing Ronnie Hawkins, who hardened them to life on the road in the sixties, and it was obvious there was a mutual respect there even when they became world famous, and Ronnie's career flagged. The account here of the transition to the Dylan years comes up with quite a bit that wasn't previously common knowledge, and the backround of each member is well researched also. The impact of the Big Pink and The Band albums on the dreary world of late 60's music can't be over estimated, and this book documents it well. An excellent book.
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on 11 September 2014
I love the Band, like you wouldnt believe. This is a full account of the journey of the band throughout their run. Unfortunately it doesnt read terribly well, its made up of interviews and excerpts and I watched an episode of behind the music or the making of the brown album and essentially everything that was in the show was replicated in the book. They could have very possibly been done in conjunction with one another but it just felt that it was a waste of time to read the book when I could have watched this hour long loc and get the same information.

Not complaining though, Ill literally read anything Band related.
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on 18 March 2013
loved this book. in depth look at the band, the times, and the music of those times. Unfortunately the band seemed to split with some animosity. This seems to be that robbie was the most savvy, wrote all the songs with input from the others, but neglected to credit their input. When the royalties came in he cleaned up while the others ended up skint and resentful. their music will live on forever and their influence is massive, even if this never translated into record sales and wealth. only 2 of them left now that levon has passed away. great book.
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on 26 September 2015
Nearly finished it, it's a good read, fills in a lot of gaps in my knowledge of The Band. Can't help feeling I'd like to read another similar book to see if it's the same story.
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on 9 October 2015
Bought this as a gift for my mom, she loved it. She was talking about The Band for weeks and telling me little stories that she had read here.
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on 5 May 2015
The definitive book on The Band, one of the greatest bands of all time. A great read
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on 30 January 2015
Good quality
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on 16 July 2015
very happy
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