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Weekend Reads: Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story … with Bonus Track

I remarked just yesterday that, had I grown up in the late 1950s/early 1960s, I would probably have had a giant crush on Jerry Lee Lewis.  Tall, handsome, and played the hell out of the piano.  I’m looking forward to seeing him next April at Viva Las Vegas; at age 82, he’s still playing.

Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own StoryJerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story by Rick Bragg

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was one of the most entertaining biographies I’ve ever read, proving once again that even scholarly work like Bragg’s need not be dull.

Rick Bragg not only consults newspaper archives and other documents; he interviews Jerry Lee Lewis and various other individuals in order to create a portrait of a complex man who grew up poor in Ferriday, Louisiana, and rose to the top of the early rock industry. He also covers Lewis’ fall from grace that resulted from marrying his 13-year-old cousin … and how he rose up again to become a top-selling country artist.

In between, we see Lewis’ foibles, notorious temper … but most particularly we see his good humor and honesty about who and what he is and was. Conflicted because of his Pentecostal faith and playing what his cousin Jimmy Swaggart called the devil’s music, Lewis is a complicated man … while at the same time doing his best to be honest with the world about what he experiences and believes.

Bragg has done an outstanding job of presenting a legend in an accessible and intelligent way. Extensive bibliography and end notes are testament to the level of research employed by the author and serve to cement the authenticity and importance of this work.

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