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