LITTLE MISS DYNAMITE: The Life and Times of Brenda Lee

Brenda Lee, Author, Robert K Oermann, With, Julie Clay, With , with Robert K. Oermann and Julie Clay. Hyperion $24.95 (320p) ISBN 0-7868-6644-6

With help from her daughter Clay and music journalist Oermann, the diminutive singer belts out a life story as big as her unmistakable voice. Returning to her charity ward beginnings, Lee hints at painful experiences to come. "My emotions were so complicated, so mixed up, about the world I came from," she begins. "It almost aches to even talk about it." But the tormenting details of her life—and there are many—are mentioned only in passing. ("I didn't have that many dresses to my name. So I'll never forget the night that Daddy burned some of them up. I guess he was what you'd call today a binge drinker.") Lee prefers to talk about music, and she does so with relish. At seven, she began her career in Georgia alongside Ray Charles, Gladys Knight, James Brown and Otis Redding. She worked doggedly, and was a seasoned touring and recording artist by the time she was 11. Under guidance of a protective Patsy Cline, Lee grew up on the road, earning a living for her family along the way. Those interested in the early days of the rock music business will find a gold mine of anecdotes. Along with the sleazy practices (e.g., stealing songs, names and royalties), Lee describes the energy and talent that propelled songs and artists into history. While Lee may be best remembered for that holiday chestnut, "Rocking Around the Christmas Tree," this autobiography recalls a career (still going, mind you) as rich and strong as the voice it celebrates. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 02/04/2002
Release date: 03/01/2002
Genre: Nonfiction
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