cover image Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story

Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story

Rick Bragg. Harper, $27.99 (512p) ISBN 978-0-06-207822-3

Bragg, writing closely with Lewis, offers this rollicking, incendiary tale of the man who kick-started rock and roll and blazed a fiery trail strewn with heartache, happiness, regret, and memorable music. Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Bragg (All Over but the Shouting) sat down with Lewis over a period of two years and simply let Lewis tell his own story. From his childhood in Ferriday, La., and Natchez, Miss., Lewis chased music, discovering at age five his reason for being born when he sees the piano in his aunt’s house. He couldn’t sit still—”I come out jumpin’, an’ I been jumpin’ ever since”—and he conducts us on a journey through his short-lived career at a Bible college, his discovery by Cowboy Jack Clement, his years at Sun Studio—including that now-famous, brief session with Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, and Elvis—his seven marriages, his children’s deaths, his descent into drugs and alcohol, and his burning desire to play music above all else. “For Jerry Lee,” writes Bragg, “fame was a thing that sometimes flogged him and sometimes let him be; he was capable, in the dark times, of losing all sight of the good in his music, of believing it was evil, until suddenly things would be just clear and he’d see it all so much better. The thing about rock and roll, he said, was that it made people crazy bad, but it more often made them happy, made them forget life for a while.” As his song “Thirty-Nine and Holding”illustrates, Lewis hypnotizes with his tale, and Bragg stands back and lets him fly. [em](Nov.) [/em]