RJ Smith - Chuck Berry: An American Life

Tuesday, November 15, 2022 - 6:00pm
Tuesday, November 15, 6pm CT
In person at Left Bank Books
399 N. Euclid Ave
St. Louis, MO 63108
Masks required for in person attendance
Please RSVP for the presentation here
Virtually at Left Bank Books' YouTube Page
Left Bank Books presents acclaimed author and journalist
RJ Smith,
who will discuss the definitive biography of Chuck Berry, legendary performer and inventor of rock and roll
Chuck Berry: An American Life
in our store on November 15th at 6pm!
Join us in the store or on YouTube Live Page.
Order copies of
from Left Bank Books to support authors and independent bookstores!
 
Smith will personalize and sign copies for sale from Left Bank Books.
If you are unable to make it in person, leave a personalization note in your order.
 
 
RJ Smith has been a senior editor at Los Angeles Magazine, a contributor to Details, a columnist for The Village Voice, a staff writer for Spin, and has written for GQNew York Times MagazineElle, and Men's Vogue. His book The One: The Life and Music of James Brown was among the New York Times' "100 Notable Books of 2012." Smith lives in Cincinnati.
 
“RJ Smith’s powerful and passionate portrait of Chuck Berry reveals the troubled man behind the iconic swagger and blazing guitar. To know Chuck Berry is to know racial conflicts in America. Smith makes sure you know both.”—Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, NBA Legend & New York Times bestselling author
 
The definitive biography of Chuck Berry, legendary performer and inventor of rock and roll

Best known as the groundbreaking artist behind classics like “Johnny B. Goode,” “Maybellene,” “You Never Can Tell” and “Roll Over Beethoven,” Chuck Berry was a man of wild contradictions, whose motives and motivations were often shrouded in mystery. After all, how did a teenage delinquent come to write so many songs that transformed American culture? And, once he achieved fame and recognition, why did he put his career in danger with a lifetime’s worth of reckless personal behavior? Throughout his life, Berry refused to shed light on either the mastery or the missteps, leaving the complexity that encapsulated his life and underscored his music largely unexplored—until now.

In Chuck Berry, biographer RJ Smith crafts a comprehensive portrait of one of the great American entertainers, guitarists, and lyricists of the 20th century, bringing Chuck Berry to life in vivid detail. Based on interviews, archival research, legal documents, and a deep understanding of Berry’s St. Louis (his birthplace, and the place where he died in March 2017), Smith sheds new light on a man few have ever really understood. By placing his life within the context of the American culture he made and eventually withdrew from, we understand how Berry became such a groundbreaking figure in music, erasing racial boundaries, crafting subtle political commentary, and paying a great price for his success. While celebrating his accomplishments, the book also does not shy away from troubling aspects of his public and private life, asking profound questions about how and why we separate the art from the artist.

Berry declined to call himself an artist, shrugging that he was good at what he did. But the man's achievement was the rarest kind, the kind that had social and political resonance, the kind that made America want to get up and dance. At long last, Chuck Berry brings the man and the music together.
 
 
“RJ Smith’s Chuck Berry is a brilliant deep dive into the life of the true King of Rock & Roll. The irascible Berry shaved with a blow torch and played guitar like a possessed wizard from the Great American Highway. In unexpected ways Berry was a civil rights revolutionary with songs as his artillery. Smith’s fresh anecdotes, musicologist erudition, and page-turning prose is awesome. This is a must-read!”—Douglas Brinkley, author of Silent Spring Revolution

“Chuck Berry was one of the first people I knew that was true to life. Just like this book showing the truth to his life. I knew him from the 1950s onward and I can honestly say that RJ truly captured the essence of Chuck Berry as I knew him. You couldn’t have a better book on the life and career of my ol’ friend.”—Bobby Rush, GRAMMY Award Winning blues artist, Blues Hall of Famer, and author of I Ain’t Studdin’ Ya

“Chuck Berry is both a national monument and something of an enigma. RJ Smith convincingly connects those two points in his scrupulous account, which is impressively detailed but never dull, and rich in the textures of time, place, personality, and sound. You'll want to read every word.”—Lucy Sante, author of Low Life, The Other Paris, and Maybe the People Would Be the Times

“A hungry ear drives Smith's wondrous, brilliant book. Not only does he capture the excitement of Berry's music, he hears the awe of those in its thrall, from his rock & roll heirs to rivals, fans, and mystified bystanders throughout the twentieth century. Smith writes history as though it's a series of tall tales--how else to conjure Berry's brilliance as well as complexities, the unheralded highs and lows, the myth and the man, the man and the strange nation that produced him.”—Hua Hsu, staff writer at the New Yorker and author of Stay True

Chuck Berry is a necessary book that expands and beautifully complicates our understanding of Berry as a human and as an artist.”—Jessica Hopper, author of The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic
Event address: 
399 N. Euclid Ave.
Saint Louis, MO 63108
Books: 
Chuck Berry: An American Life By RJ Smith Cover Image
$32.00
ISBN: 9780306921636
Availability: On Our Shelves (Note - We update this inventory once per day.)
Published: Hachette Books - November 8th, 2022

The One: The Life and Music of James Brown By RJ Smith Cover Image
$18.00
ISBN: 9781592407422
Availability: On Our Shelves (Note - We update this inventory once per day.)
Published: Avery - November 6th, 2012

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