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Across the Great Divide: The Band and America

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  685 ratings  ·  40 reviews
This is a vivid and rollicking account of The Band's journey across three decades. Spanning the history of American rock and boasting a supporting cast that includes Dylan, Janis Joplin, and U2, the book brilliantly captures the raw magic and complex personalities of a group George Harrison called "the best band in the history of the universe.", This revised U.S. edition i ...more
Paperback, 467 pages
Published November 1st 2006 by Hal Leonard Publishing Corporation (first published 1993)
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4.11  · 
Rating details
 ·  685 ratings  ·  40 reviews


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Erik
Nov 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
Levon Helm's autobiography, "This Wheel's On Fire," ranks as one of my all time favorite rock biographies. This book is also a very good look at life inside the Band, and stands apart because it offers a kinder eye to Robbie Robertson and his acrimonious split from Helm and the other members of the Band.
Glen
Nov 24, 2011 rated it liked it
One of the finest concerts I ever saw was during one of The Band's reunion tours in the early 80's with the Cate Brothers at The Stone in San Francisco, before Richard Manuel's suicide. I was in the front row and got to shake hands with Levon, Rick, and Richard, and Bonnie Raitt and Maria Muldaur came onstage at the end to sing "Willie and the Hand Jive". It was a wonderful evening. This book, on the other hand, is a bit labored, too long, and in the end rather sad since the author makes the poi ...more
Rick Bayko
Aug 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
The rise and fall of one of the most unique and interesting bands in Rock. It took a few years to all get together and become a group, but once there and firing on all cylinders produced music unlike anything heard before, some of which has stood the test of time and become classics. Unfortunately things began unraveling leading to a slow decline and fall.

Time seems to have shown that despite criticism of Robbie Robertson, that continues to this day, he was most likely on the right track. Richa
...more
Joe
Aug 28, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: The fabulised
Well, the story of The Band is so laden with bitching and backstabbing, trials, tribulations, drug addled rambling and bitterness, Barney Hoskyn's relatively impartial biog is great for getting an overview of the group's story. I read this book immediately after finishing Band drummer, Levon Helm's, autobiography which is the most unashamedly biased book I have ever read (I loved it though).
From their early days as Hawks to the tragic death of Richard Manuel, Barney Hoskyns delivers an engaging
...more
Robert
Aug 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
My love of The Band grew as a result of reading this book. I knew the outline of their story, but this book goes into excellent detail about the group's origins as the Hawks, then backing Dylan, and then finally as their own unit.

I was always confused as to how a band seemingly at the height of its powers would walk away, resulting in The Last Waltz. Seeing as it seemed to be the motivation of Robertson, the group's primary songwriter, the author gives the sense the others had little choice, ev
...more
Ric Glowienka
Dec 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: music
Growing up in the 70's I wasn't a big fan of The Band. Over the years, more and more of their songs ended up on my playlists, and eventually you turn around to see just how big an influence their music was on your musical tastes. I think I listened more to bands like Blue Rodeo and Blitzen Trapper because of their affinity to The Band.

This is a sad story overall though. I read it as a parable of lost potential. It's tough to make it in the music industry, and perhaps even tougher if you are lit
...more
Graham Tennyson
Oct 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: music
Made me want to listen to the music again - my iPod has been set to The Band for a month now. It's a balanced view of an (unusually) balanced band, although, eventually, the balance shifted. Hoskyns captures these shifts well but he also transmits a clear love for the music. It is fascinating to here how some of this wonderful music grew and evolved out of the classics of American music. If you like anything by The Band, or even if you are just interested in the period, this is a very enjoyable ...more
Mathilde DuBois
Dec 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Most of what I read about the Band's inner workings came from Levon's memoir. I have yet to read Robbie's, though I imagine the truth lies somewhere in between. Here Hoskyns does a great job of, threading the needle between both camps. Yes Robbie did indeed write the songs, but at what cost and to whom? He cannot disqualify Levon's input which is immense through the Band's history. Maybe we will never know. The band's drug habit was spoken about in better detail here and the candid nature was ap ...more
Kim
Feb 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
Very well balanced view of the tensions between Levon Helm and Robbie Robertson. This made the book very comfortable to read for those who respected and appreciated both. I particularly enjoyed the emphasis on the joy each member got from playing the music.
Paulus
Sep 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
A legendary band. A legendary story. A well written book. If you want to read one book about The Band, choose this one. This Wheel's on Fire (by Levon Helm and Stephen Davis) is just one side of the story.
William Dearth
Nov 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: music
The Band was arguably the greatest North American Rock band. If you are a fan of the Band, this book is indispensable. It ranks right up there with Levon Helm's "This Wheels on Fire."
John Bastin
I"ve always liked the band, and I looked forward to learning more about them with this book. Learn more about them I did, to the point of exhaustion. There is a ton of information about them and their history, starting with working with the Hawk, Ronnie Hawkins, in this book, but it does go on and on and on. It would have been great at about two-thirds of its length.

Barney Hoskins is obviously a Band fan-boy, and his writing about the group shows it. Not everything about them and what happened t
...more
Jeff
Oct 01, 2018 rated it liked it
This is a good read however after reading Robbie's and Levon's books as well as Ronnie Hawkins and Bob Dylan bios, I've heard many of the stories retold. However I recommend it to anyone interested in the overall story of the Band.
Melissa
May 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If you are a fan of The Band then this is the book to read. It is full of band lore with interviews done through the years with all its members, plus insight into their music and lyrics. Well done!
Charlie
Oct 22, 2015 rated it it was ok
Across The Great Divide: I didn't find this a rollicking account of The Band's journey at all - contrary to the books' description. The only thing I found rollicking about it was the sequence in which I chose to read the chapters - I basically chopped them up into a collage of rearranged readings. This was as near to a "rollicking" experience with Barney Hoskyns book as I could possibly get...

In this biography, it seems patently obvious how the author tries so earnestly to give a 'middle of the
...more
Tim
Jan 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: fans of The Band and/ or Bob Dylan; music historians
First off, I'm addicted to The Band. seriously. They are definitely in my top 3 of best bands in history in my book.

I'd always known, loosly, that The Band had existed but had never really dove into their music; kind of like my relationship with T. Rex, Patti Smith, The Grateful Dead and The Spin Doctors. (please people don't write me telling my I have to listen to any of those bands, I know, I'll get around to it... maybe not the Dead though, and also, that last one was a joke)
A couple years ag
...more
David
Jun 25, 2007 rated it it was ok
Obsession with the Band continues. This book was a disappointment. It was a very detached history of the Band. He recites where they played, what they played, recorded, etc., but there are no stories or hard opinions only facts and glossed over references to substance abuse and growing personnel problems. Only after the Last Waltz did the author begin to show some emotion toward his subjects (other than praise, which felt like a greatest hits of reviews from back in the day or previous books) wi ...more
Brent
Jul 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of The Band, Levon & The Hawks, Ronnie Hawkins, and Bob Dylan
Recommended to Brent by: Levon Helm, Gart Hudson, Richard Manuel, Rick Danko, and Robbie Robertson
I miss my LP of The Band (1970), acquired in 1976 from either my Uncle Billy or Andy Folio's great shop Fantasyland in Atlanta, GA. This twenty-year old book has added poignant relevance with Rick Danko and Levon Helm now dead. The first scene of this useful book invokes the tragic suicide of the late, great Richard Manuel.
I saw the version of The Band that toured in late 1980s, at Atlanta's Center Stage theater. Anyone else remember that show? My memory is peppered with fans yelling out for Rob
...more
Adam
Jul 10, 2008 rated it liked it
Not to be confused with the book of the same title about the Oregon Trail (tho I bet the imagery and photos are somewhat identical). This chronicles The Band from it's origins as The Hawks through the Last Waltz and then some. Thoroughly researched, tons of detail (if you've ever read British music writing (think Mojo magazine) then you know how much more they care about music history than most). I particularly like the detail given to the various recording sessions, many of which involved just ...more
Tom
Oct 09, 2013 rated it liked it
This is an incredibly sad book. Perhaps I feel that way because I had so much feeling for the music they made. Why is it sad? The Band's second album is a work of inspired genius, one of the greatest roots albums ever produced. For my money the greatest rock LP of the sixties. After that record the group is unable to produce a record of equal quality. The group slowly breaks apart and devolves into petty argument, alcoholism, and drug abuse. This book chronicles their rise and fall. The fall is ...more
doug bowman
Jan 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
ACROSS THE GREAT DIVIDE is an in-depth look at the development, importance, and innerworkings of one of the most quietly influential bands in American Rock music. The author, Barney Hoskins, blends anecdotal information about The Band members with intelligent analysis of their music and their influence. A very balanced approach identifies each member's strengths and importance to the group, without shying away from personal shortcomings that led, ultimately, to the band's demise.
Anthony
Mar 24, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: strange-melodies
A little too dismissive of bands/artists who don't play their instruments "properly," according to Hoskyns, for my taste (His put down of T. Rex in the beginning I thought was a little annoying and irrelevant), but the Band were a phenomenal group of musicians and their story is still worth reading.
Steve
May 13, 2016 rated it liked it
I have always loved the Band, and am in fact writing this listening to some Levon Helm music. This is a detailed account of the journey the band took. However, it doesn't read terribly well, seeming to be made up of connected interviews. Hoskyns is a bit of a mystery, sometimes on cracking form and sometimes not. This is NOT his finest hour.
Tony Lind
Apr 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The definitive The Band biography, although it needs another update now that Levon's no longer with us. It feels weird that out of five members of this truly unique orchestra, only two are still alive. But their musical legacy remains huge, and their story is a fascinating one. Highly recommended for anyone interested in music.
Simon
Sep 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: music
Somewhere in this brick of a book I stopped being an unquestioning fan of The Band and started to find faults. I still love the music. Ended up feeling very sorry for a couple of them and not liking Robbie Robertson very much at all. Maybe I should get another perspective.
James Alvino
Feb 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
The story of four Canadians and one American and their musical journey. From playing sleazy bars in Toronto to touring with Dylan, this book has it all. A must read for any fan of the Band and for anyone that enjoys good old fashioned Americana.
Beth
Oct 03, 2009 rated it liked it
For Band lovers, this book gives the who, what, and when of the music. Loved learning the background of the songs we've enjoyed so much.
Paul Secor
Mar 27, 2012 rated it it was ok
Listen to the records, read Levon's book, and skip this one.
Mitchell Wittenberg
Dec 28, 2007 rated it really liked it
A fascinating look at one of the greatest bands ever (at least as found on "Music From Big Pink", "The Band", "Rock of Ages", and "The Basement Tapes").
Padraic
Feb 26, 2009 rated it liked it
Ultimately all books about rock bands read the same. This is Levon vs. Robbie, the old weirdness vs. the auteur, with some cool organ swells thrown in. Yawn. Listen to King Harvest again.
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