Jerry Butler's Only the Strong Survive presents a portrait of a remarkable performer, as well as an up-close and personal look at the world of rhythm-and-blues. Filled with intimate anecdotes about such R&B legends as Otis Redding, Curtis Mayfield, Patti LaBelle, Sam Cook, and Dionne Warwick, Butler's compelling, sometimes hilarious, narrative is told against the backdrop of 1960s America. Only the Strong Survive, as told to Earl Smith, is an autobiography; but more than that, it is history. Drawing on countless conversations and interviews with Butler and others, Smith chronicles the "Iceman's" journey from rural Mississippi to Chicago, and the founding and eventual breakup of the legendary Impressions vocal group.
Currently serving his fourth term on the Cook County Board of Commissioners, Butler also gives us a glimpse inside the world of Chicago politics. He shares stories of Harold Washington, Chicago's first African American mayor, and others, including Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.
Only the Strong Survive is an entertaining, moving chronicle of one of America's music pioneers.
An award-winning performer, producer, and composer, and one of the architects of Rhythm-and-Blues, Jerry "The Iceman" Butler has enjoyed a musical career spanning more than 40 years that produced over 50 albums, numerous hit songs, and three Grammy Award nominations. Butler is now in his fifth term as a Cook County Commissioner in Chicago, Illinois.
Earl Smith, a veteran journalist and Chicago resident, has worked for the Associated Press, Jet magazine, and the Chicago Defender. He is also the founder and editor of Today's Traveler magazine.
"Beginning as a member of the Impressions in Chicago in 1958, Butler (b. 1939) launched a vocal career that has lasted into the 21st century. This autobiography details his growing up in poverty and his initial musical successes and ends with his foray into politics with his election to the Cook County Board of Commissioners in 1985 and his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991. Along the way Butler supplies considerable information on various managers and recording companies, especially Vee Jay Records, Mercury Records, and later Motown. The author concentrates not on private lives but on musical careers-his own and those of numerous others, e.g., Curtis Mayfield, Little Willie John, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Patti LaBelle. His behind-the-scenes look at race relations within the music industry during the last half of the century supplements and chronologically expands Robert Pruter's discussion in Doowop: The Chicago Scene (CH, Nov'96) and Chicago Soul (CH, May'91). Selected illustrations, discography, brief notes, and bibliography are helpful. Highly recommended for academic and general readers alike with an interest in popular music. All levels." -R. D. Cohen, Indiana University Northwest, Choice, March 2001