Rick Bragg: Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story

Fast times and controversy, with added input from The Killer himself.

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Attempting a biography of rock‘n’roll’s most notorious figure is no mean task, but Pulitzer Prize-winner Rick Bragg has done an admirable job, aided by Jerry Lee himself. At times his often scandalous life – drugs, guns, booze, women and more – feels like an endless procession of bad car wrecks.

Cuckolded husbands leave bullets on his piano lid, sons and wives die in awful circumstances, and Lewis’s career gets sideswiped by a bigamous marriage to his 13-year-old cousin. In fact, even in the fattest times he’s consumed by what Bragg refers to as “a dark sadness”.

It’s to Lewis’s credit that he refuses to make excuses for any of it; his lack of contrition merely deepening an already formidable reputation. All he ever wanted to do, he says, is sing, pound a piano and make the women holler.

No matter that Lewis is rarely portrayed as warm or approachable, this is a fascinating account of a wild, wild talent./o:p

Rob Hughes

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2008, and sister title Prog since its inception in 2009. Regular contributor to Uncut magazine for over 20 years. Other clients include Word magazine, Record Collector, The Guardian, Sunday Times, The Telegraph and When Saturday Comes. Alongside Marc Riley, co-presenter of long-running A-Z Of David Bowie podcast. Also appears twice a week on Riley’s BBC6 radio show, rifling through old copies of the NME and Melody Maker in the Parallel Universe slot. Designed Aston Villa’s kit during a previous life as a sportswear designer. Geezer Butler told him he loved the all-black away strip.