The thrill is here, as B.B. King finally gets his due in this first meticulous account of his historic life.

KING OF THE BLUES

THE RISE AND REIGN OF B.B. KING

As blues royalty and one of the 20th century’s most influential musicians, B.B. King (1925-2015) has long deserved a well-considered biography that places his achievements in a cultural and historical context. This is it.

Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist de Visé deftly interweaves tales of American history, pop culture, racial relations, music theory, and much more to fully demonstrate King’s significance. Not only does the author show King at his highest moments—winning multiple Grammys and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, recording his most-acclaimed albums, opening the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center in his hometown of Indianola, Mississippi—but also his lowest, including his final days, when he was bedridden and suffering from complications of his chronic diabetes. It’s a magnificent tale that de Visé reconstructs mostly in King’s own words, culled from his memoir and the hundreds of interviews he gave throughout his career. However, it is often when the author writes as an outsider about King’s life that the most poignant revelations come. Though King famously cultivated the belief that he had fathered 15 children, he was believed to be sterile. Almost as famously, King would rarely address racial injustice even though it affected him and his career deeply. De Visé, who lays out one indignity after another for King and his band because they were Black, wonders if “King’s anger remained deep inside, concealed behind the expressive eyes and the ancient stutter, where perhaps it had always lived.” As King himself once wrote, “Moving on is my method of healing my hurt and, man, I’ve been moving on all my life.” What de Visé does best, though, is assess the musical magic that King and his beloved guitar, Lucille, made and how their unique sound combination influenced blues and rock stars for generations.

The thrill is here, as B.B. King finally gets his due in this first meticulous account of his historic life.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8021-5805-5

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

Did you like this book?

A refreshing celebrity memoir focused not strictly on the self but on a much larger horizon.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

WILL

One of Hollywood’s biggest stars delivers a memoir of success won through endless, relentless work and self-reckoning.

“My imagination is my gift, and when it merges with my work ethic, I can make money rain from the heavens.” So writes Smith, whose imagination is indeed a thing of wonder—a means of coping with fear, an abusive father with the heart of a drill instructor, and all manner of inner yearnings. The author’s imagination took him from a job bagging ice in Philadelphia to initial success as a partner in the Grammy-winning rap act DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. Smith was propelled into stardom thanks to the ministrations of Quincy Jones, who arranged an audition in the middle of his own birthday party, bellowing “No paralysis through analysis!” when Smith begged for time to prepare. The mantra—which Jones intoned 50-odd times during the two hours it took for the Hollywood suits to draw up a contract for the hit comedy series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air—is telling, for hidden within this memoir lies a powerful self-help book. For Smith, all of life is a challenge in which one’s feelings are largely immaterial. “I watched my father’s negative emotions seize control of his ample intellect and cause him over and over again to destroy beautiful parts of our family,” he writes, good reason for him to sublimate negativity in the drive to get what he wanted—money, at first, and lots of it, which got him in trouble with the IRS in the early 1990s. Smith, having developed a self-image that cast him as a coward, opines that one’s best life is lived by facing up to the things that hold us back. “I’ve been making a conscious effort to attack all the things that I’m scared of,” he writes, adding, “And this is scary.” It’s a good lesson for any aspiring creative to ponder—though it helps to have Smith’s abundant talent, too.

A refreshing celebrity memoir focused not strictly on the self but on a much larger horizon.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984877-92-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

more