Rage to Survive: The Etta James Story

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Overview

Perhaps the finest soul singer of the rock era-but equally at home singing blues and jazz—Etta James is one of the great women of American music. In Rage to Survive she tells her mesmerizing tale in her uniquely big, bold, and unrepentant voice. Without a trace of self-pity she describes her chaotic world of early R&B, depicts legends like Sam Cooke and Little Richard, details her dependency on drugs and bad men, and unsparingly recounts the golden age of soul, when her "Tell Mama” topped the charts. Rage to ...

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Overview

Perhaps the finest soul singer of the rock era-but equally at home singing blues and jazz—Etta James is one of the great women of American music. In Rage to Survive she tells her mesmerizing tale in her uniquely big, bold, and unrepentant voice. Without a trace of self-pity she describes her chaotic world of early R&B, depicts legends like Sam Cooke and Little Richard, details her dependency on drugs and bad men, and unsparingly recounts the golden age of soul, when her "Tell Mama” topped the charts. Rage to Survive is a funky, ribald tale told with unparalleled sass.

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Editorial Reviews

Ray Charles
Etta tells it like it is. Couldn't put the thing down. Great book!
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
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.
Mike Tribby
Growing up in south central LA, James stood out at an early age. Her church choir leader tutored the little girl with the big voice to sing with "vocal fire," and after attracting notice in gospel circles, she had her first chart success with "Roll with Me, Henry," a "pushy little jiveass reply" to rhythm and blues great Hank Ballard's "Work with Me, Annie." Her record's producer was Johnny Otis, one of many other stars she has something to say about. Others include Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, and whiter-than-white Georgia Gibbs, whose "Dance with Me, Henry" covered and outsold Etta's hit. Besides whites stealing her thunder, James encountered underhanded financial dealings, drug abuse and addiction, and transitory love affairs. In other words, her story is a typical black pop-music as-told-to bio, though better than many of the others.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780306807848
  • Publisher: Kluwer Academic Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/28/1997

Meet the Author

David Ritz is the author of Faith in Time: The Life of Jimmy Scott, Divided Soul: The Life of Marvin Gaye, and many other books with or about Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, and B.B. King. He is a three-time winner of the Ralph J. Gleason Music Book Award. He lives in Los Angeles.
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