The Life and Times of Kinky Fried­man

Foreword Reviews - - Foresight Biography -

Mary Lou Sul­li­van, Back­beat Books (NOVEM­BER), Hard­cover $29.99 (304pp), 978-1-4950-5896-7

Kinky Fried­man is some­thing of a Texas leg­end. The satirist has, at var­i­ous times, made his name as a singer-song­writer, a mys­tery author, an es­say­ist, a colum­nist, an an­i­mal-res­cue cru­sader, and a po­lit­i­cal can­di­date. Mary Lou Sul­li­van’s biog­ra­phy of the Kinkster, Ev­ery­thing’s Big­ger in Texas, thor­oughly cap­tures the Jewish cow­boy’s many ca­reers and tells a story packed with in­ter­views and anec­dotes.

Fried­man is a master racon­teur, al­ways ready with a funny quip, and Sul­li­van’s book re­flects that. But she also gets him to open up to a sur­pris­ing de­gree, mak­ing this his de­fin­i­tive biog­ra­phy. The story cov­ers Fried­man’s early years at the camp his par­ents ran in Texas, work­ing for the Peace Corps in Bor­neo dur­ing mon­soon sea­son, tak­ing part in civil rights protests, and at­tend­ing the Univer­sity of Texas dur­ing the sniper at­tack by Charles Whit­man (which in­spired one of his most well known songs). Along with Fried­man’s own rec­ol­lec­tions, Sul­li­van in­cludes those of his friends, fam­ily, and band­mates, re­ally flesh­ing out these mem­o­ries.

Of course, the more well known ad­ven­tures of Fried­man’s life also make for fas­ci­nat­ing read­ing: his early tours with his band the Texas Jew­boys packed into an old Cadil­lac, be­com­ing the first Jew to play the Grand Ole Opry, join­ing Bob Dy­lan as part of the Rolling Thun­der Re­vue, and par­ty­ing with John Belushi and ap­pear­ing on Satur­day Night Live. His late-ca­reer runs for po­lit­i­cal of­fice are cov­ered well, in­clud­ing the unique chal­lenges of run­ning as an in­de­pen­dent and Fried­man’s frus­tra­tion with op­po­nents’ below-the-belt tac­tics. The book doesn’t shy away from the darker times ei­ther, whether they be an era of heavy co­caine use that cost Fried­man sev­eral close friends, or the ca­reer strug­gles of mu­sic-in­dus­try ex­ec­u­tives who did not get Fried­man’s hu­mor.

As his myr­iad ca­reers demon­strate, Kinky Fried­man is the sum of many unique and in­ter­est­ing parts, and Sul­li­van as­sem­bles them beau­ti­fully.

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