Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story | Rick Bragg | 2014 | 512 pages
Everybody has like two or three random things they’re into that when people find out about it, they kind of cock their head; ‘what now?’ For me those things are boxing and the music of Jerry Lee Lewis.
Naturally, when I learned that Rick Bragg, considered the greatest southern storyteller of all time by pretty much everyone thanks to his My Southern Journey: True Stories from the Heart of the South blockbuster, had written a biography on Lewis, I picked it up.
In His Own Story Bragg traces the incredible life of Lewis from his boyhood in Ferriday, Louisiana to the pinnacle of stardom and all the way back down again [and back again, and down again; Lewis’ career is one of the great instances of near-constant careening between disaster and resurrection you’ll ever learn about]. Throughout, the book, while clearly erring on the side of kindness to Lewis’ many faults- his womanizing, violence, tax evasion and substance abuse, among other attributes, are treated more like cartoonish badges of honor than real issues in his life- seems honest enough on balance and gives the reader a rollicking ride through maybe the most chaotic, interesting and tragic rock and roll lives.
Bragg’s book is an interesting look into the life of a man who rose from abject poverty to become one of the biggest musical acts [and celebrities] of the 20th century, and all with virtually no regard for the rules of conventional society. A fun read.