Country Legend Rodney Crowell has a string of top 10 hits, a Grammy Award and a permanent spot in Nashville Hall of Fame, and now he’s trying his hand as a writer. His published memoir "Chinaberry Sidewalks" is about his parents whom he says "were the most lovable, and scary yahoos you’ll ever meet." Crowell tells about his 1950s childhood. You won’t find much about his own stardom in this book. It’s all about his love for his parents not in spite of their flaws but because of them.
Country music Legend Rodney Crowell’s songs are personal, concise and introspective. He’s earned 10 top hits, a Grammy Award and a niche in the Nashville Hall of Fame. Now, Crowell has written a book that begins in 1955 when Crowell was 5 years old. The book’s name is “Chinaberry Sidewalks” taken from a chinaberry tree that stood in the yard of his childhood home, The story starts with four beer drinking couples dancing in the living room of his parent’s shotgun duplex. Crowell says, “They were wearing on my nerves and I didn’t like them singing along with my prized Hank Williams 78s.” He says to forestall the inevitable he uncovers his dads .22 and the blast misses the dancing couples but sets the tone for his long backward gaze at a childhood spent at the mercy of two of the most lovable, and scary yahoos you’ll ever meet. He was speaking of his parents J.W. and Cauzette.
Image via Wikipedia
In one of his songs Crowell sings, “I come from a long line of live and love in vain.” In his memoir he goes back to his paternal great-grandfather describing him as, “the meanest, most racist, white trash in all western Kentucky” and his mama’s “no-account daddy” as being as highly motivated at drinking as he was disinterested in share cropping. Crowell said it left Cauzette and J.W. with little more than a sixth grade education and a crippling sense of disentitlement that haunted them for the rest of their lives. J.W. terrorized Cauzette and Cauzette whipped Rodney with switches from the chinaberry tree till the blood run from his legs. Crowell says they brawled at home, in the car and at the ice house where J.W.’s band played on weekends.
With all that went on you would think Rodney would feel bitterness toward his parents, but, no, his memoir is full of love and affection. It’s a tribute to their limitations and their undying love for each other. Crowell says, “These were eight year olds in drunken 30 something year old bodies powered by pent up rage.” At one point Rodney smashes a bottle over his own head to break up a fight. One of his proudest moments was at a honky tonk when his brow beaten mother snatches a rival to the dance hall floor for boogieing too close to J.W.
He remembers his father as an undiscovered country singer long overdue credit, and he recalls the day J.W. took him to one of Hank William’s concerts. Cromwell tells of the untold numbers of songs his father sang, all the Appalachian songs, Negro blues, gospel songs, talking songs, train songs, jailhouse songs, and the musical credibility that Crowell used to launched his own career. In “Chinaberry Tree.” The love and admiration Crowell feels for his parents, flaws and all, shines through the memoir like a beacon of light. He tells the story of many a country boy raised rough who came through it all with flying colors.
Publish your book reviews or other articles and earn income.