cover image Rage to Survive

Rage to Survive

Etta James. Villard Books, $20 (271pp) ISBN 978-0-679-42328-7

Born to a 14-year-old mother and raised by surrogate parents, blues and R&B star James started singing gospel in church at five, was discovered at 14 and had a rapid rise to fame. Nevertheless, her story is a disturbing saga of drug addiction, jail sentences for writing bad checks and stealing prescription drugs, involvements with the wrong men and anger at a disruptive and unstable mother who has refused to reveal who her daughter's father is. It's easy to see why James says she has been ``raging through life.'' She claims it's the rage that keeps her going. Now, at the age of 56, she reports she has kicked the drug habit, reached an understanding with her mother and settled down with her husband and children, letting off steam by dirt biking. Ritz, who has written biographies of Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye and Smokey Robinson, spent two years traveling with James and listening to her talk about her life. Here he captures the craziness and the pain. Photos not seen by PW. Author tour. (June)