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Rage To Survive

4.16  ·  Rating Details  ·  321 Ratings  ·  50 Reviews
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, ...more
Paperback, 271 pages
Published March 21st 1998 by Da Capo Press (first published 1995)
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Mar 25, 2013 Tara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is absolutely phenomenal. After reading her biography you feel like you personally know Etta James. I love her honesty. She didn't hold back any detail. She had such an amazing story to tell and boy did she tell it.

She was born Jamesetta (named after her aunt and uncle) to a mother only 14 years older than her. Her mother was black and her father, a man she never knew, was white.

She tells of living in a time of segregation where the blacks made fun of her because she was light skinned
Heather Mays
Feb 26, 2014 Heather Mays rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, addiction
Around 2006, I attended the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
I was lounging in my chair waiting for Buddy Guy to play, when Etta James took the stage. I had no experience listening to her and was blown away by her performance. Raw, in your face emotions and raunchier than anything I had ever seen. Mind you, this was a large diabetic woman, in her late 60’s who sang sitting in a chair.
So I grabbed her biography Rage to Survive when I got home. A more appropriate title, couldn’t have been ma
Nov 16, 2015 Christine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Man this book was incredible! I've been listening to "Etta James Rocks the House" (recorded in Nashville) for 25 years. I know that album forwards and backwards, but knew nothing about the life of the warm, charismatic, drug-addicted, loving, wild, down-to-earth, troubled woman who sang it the hell out of those songs. A favorite detail was her continuous close friendships with drag queens and other gay men, who as a kid she thought of as "secret angels." This book is written in a way that makes ...more
Etta James is one of those celebrities you hear about and wondered what happened to. Up until a few years ago, I thought she was deceased. You don’t hear much about or from here these days, but she is alive and kicking.

Jamesetta Hawkins was the product of a 14 year old African-American mother and a white father (who is rumored to be Minnesota Fats the pool shark). This book chronicles her tumultuous childhood complete with absent mother. It goes on to talk of her rise to stardom and her demise t
Mar 30, 2015 Diane rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
For personal reasons, I find I have less and less tolerance for junkies, and Etta James was one for decades, so the chaos and criminality of those years is a big focus of this autobiography, and I grew weary of such blow-by-blow accounts. Still, her voice and spirit are well captured, along with many details surrounding the songs she wrote and the recordings she made, and those things made this book a worthwhile read.
I loved this book. I decided to read Etta James's story after seeing Cadillac Records. She's really candid. Jimi Hendrix's nickname tripped me out...I can't remember everything I was going to say about the book...I blogged about it too, so it definitely made an impression, no question about it. This woman has been through a lot and lived to tell the tale.
(Candi Staton celebrates the life of Etta James, who died in 2012. on BBC: BBC Music)
disc 1 (view spoiler)
Mar 16, 2014 Teri rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am a huge Etta James fan, although I knew about her drug addictions and in and out of rehab....I had no idea the depth of her other problems. This book is a must read for all Etta James fans.
Jul 04, 2014 Theresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For as long as I'd loved Etta's music, I've wanted to know about her life. I had no idea that she started her own all girl group at fifteen, had a 'mother' who was in and out of her life like a rubber ball, and a father who she never even knew for sure WAS her father. Even though Etta co-wrote the book with David Ritz; I get the distinct impression that these words were her own. I applaud her honesty because for all her talent she never called herself a star. She was fully aware of just who she ...more
Nov 29, 2014 Ariel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A perfect autobiography.
Even more perfect because about ten or so years after this came out, Etta James sunk into illness and Alzheimer's. For a life like hers and a what an amazing life she lived, it would have been a crime had she not been able to do it.
Etta James speaks throughout this book with unflinching candor and full awareness of her underlying fears and judgments of her actions and motivations. She is unapologetic and therefore, make the reader cheer for her even more.
This was such a p
James Perkins
Reading Etta James' autobiography, I was a little taken aback. On the one hand, she was a brilliant, famous multigenre singer, admired by many for her soul, rock, and R&B vocal talents. On the other hand, she was a hopeless drug addict for most of her adult life, unable to take proper care of her children, or function as a proper human being. All blues singers come from a place of sadness, and Miss James was no different: with an absent father, a prostitute for a mother, a friend of pimps, c ...more
Marc  A.
Jan 24, 2011 Marc A. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was not a huge R&B fan coming up. I heard all songs that hit played on top 40 radio and definitiely appreciated Screaming Jay, Ray Price, Bobby Blue Bland, Ruth Brown, Aretha, Chuck Berry, Little Willy John, Harvey Fuqua & the Moonglows, and of course Ray Charles and on, and on, but I was too young to be collecting records and my head was oriented in other directions until I backtracked onto the music when I was a little older, so I wasn't expecting to be bowled over by this biography. ...more
Jan 11, 2016 Susan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although written with David Ritz, this is Etta's story in Etta's voice, and hat's off to both for that. Etta James was described by a friend as always living her life "right on the borderline between breakdown and breakthrough". This woman has lived more lives in one than anyone; you can hear it in her music, you can read it in her words. The book sent me off to YouTube in search of gems. like her cover of The Eagles "Take It To The Limit"....Etta owned the sentiments in that song. Or my favorit ...more
May 25, 2014 Tess rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This book was amazing. I'll always be such a fan of Etta James and this book opened my eyes to what the world was like when she was younger to when she was just starting out in the business.
May 28, 2012 Rita_book rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-book
This autobiography was a fun read, taking me on a journey of the history of rhythm & blues and soul music during the middle part of the 20th century. The writing style was so breezy and conversational, it was just as if Etta was sitting on a couch, chatting away. Although it covers her harrowing battle with addictions to various drugs, the book has a redemptive and satisfactory ending. I recommend this book, especially to those who enjoy reading about music (have as many Chess recording arti ...more
Nov 06, 2014 Shakeia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music
3.5 stars. Enjoyable read and definitely written in her "voice." She certainly endured and experienced a lot. Her honesty in telling her story was absolutely incredible.
Sep 04, 2014 Michelle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
By far, one of the best stories I've ever read. I've always loved Etta James for her music, but her strength and courage left me in awe.
Mar 14, 2012 Stephanie is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
I have loved the singing of Etta James for over 50 years. Was really struck by news of her illness and death, beyond anything I'd anticipated. What is it that ties us so strongly to an artist?

This bio shows us one tough cookie who was dependent upon (you should excuse the expression) the kindness of strangers after being born to a teenage prostitute who couldn't be bothered with her.

It's a colorful cast of characters, to be sure--pimps, drag queens, junkies. She doesn't pull any punches on descr
kaitlyn lee
Apr 29, 2011 kaitlyn lee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE. Left me inspired and begging for more -- ESPECIALLY considering her condition right now... God bless Etta James. She has touched (and still continues to touch) a great number of hearts/lives/souls with her passion & pain via her unforgettably sublime voice and her story should be read (and thus, appreciated) by all... Because honestly, this book changed me for the better, and for that I am eternally grateful. And no matter what happens to the legendary singer during th ...more
Winter Sophia Rose
Raw & Uncut, Just Like The Beautiful Etta James!
Krystal Monique
Etta James is my favorite singer of all time. I know every song she ever sang, and thought I knew everything there was to know about her. Boy was I wrong. Now I knew that the woman had some issues, but I didn't know the extent of her troubles. Etta James is so candid and pours her heart and soul into this book. I now understand where the pain, attitude and raw emotion you hear in her songs originates from. I don't know why it took me so long to pick up this book, but I'm so glad I did.
Jul 19, 2015 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good, difficult memoir.
Oct 13, 2007 Laura rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. This book is like time travelling to a time in American history that I never experienced and am glad I didn't. James and her co-author Ritz will take you on a no-holds-barred trip. James recalls specific incidents of shooting up with the likes of Miles Davis and Bo Diddley. She'll tell you about her quest to meet Minnesota Fats, the man she believes is her father. You'll read all the back stories on her greatest hits and her worst failures.
Rhina M. Finley
Apr 20, 2013 Rhina M. Finley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who love biographies
Recommended to Rhina M. by: The Sam cook biography
This book had some heavy stuff in it, even jaw dropping lines. Etta James left nothing unsaid, her honesty and rawness is unique and even odd at times. She even gave insight to other artist that died in a horrible ways and suffer in so many ways as she did to get to the top. I bet if some the artist knew what they were going to go threw during thoes times, they would go back being that child singing gospel.
Joe Brunory
Mar 04, 2009 Joe Brunory rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Four stars for brutal honesty and strongest presentation of subject's voice in any bio I've read in a long time. Made me want to read others by David Ritz. I wasn't that familiar with Etta, Chess Records, or especially that early black scene in LA that was so dynamic. Lots of stories from the road and really a microscopic look at the life of an artist.
Jim Bronec
This book was okay. She had an interesting life and I liked all the comments about other musicians she grew up with (James Brown, Marvin Gay, Aretha Franklin, etc). I do get a little tired of the "musician becomes a drug addict" part of the story. Its always there. But it was interesting to hear about her life and about that period in music.
Etta James is one of my heroes. Heroines? Not so much because of the life she's led but becuase of her ballsy-ness to sing the blues when the record peeps and even her mother were trying to make her into a jazz prima donna. I Wanna Ta Ta You, Baby!!! :)
Damn. Now, I knew the woman had troubles, but, what troubles they were! I have no idea how Etta lived to the ripe old age she did from her early life. She was truly a survivor. Good read if you're interested in Etta or early music history.
Gina P
Jan 25, 2008 Gina P rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An amazing story written in the voice of a talented, funny, and inspirational woman. Etta's lifelong struggle with drug abuse is interwoven with anecdotes about the founding fathers (and mothers) of soul. A wonderful story of survival.
May 31, 2013 Patricia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biographies
I love Etta James' music so decided to read her biography. She did have a lot of struggles in her life but many were brought upon her by her bad habits, including drug addiction. I think I liked her more before I read this book!
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