Race With The Devil: The Gene Vincent Story
Author: Susan VanHecke
Review Date: February 28, 2016
Gene Vincent is probably most famous for his classic 1956 single "Be-Bop-A-Lula" and is arguably one of the most influential rock 'n' roll artists of all time. Race with the Devil is the first American biography of this musical pioneer. Updated and revised, featuring new information, interviews, and photographs, this 2016 edition of the critically acclaimed 2000 original is the most comprehensive survey ever written of Vincent's groundbreaking career and turbulent personal life.
Penned with a novelistic intensity, Race with the Devil examines Vincent's breakneck life of heady extremes. Signed by Capitol Records as the next Elvis, the poor boy from Norfolk, Virginia, enjoyed meteoric success with his hit "Be-Bop-A-Lula" and popular follow-up sides. Proto-punk Vincent's earthy, delinquent rocker posture ultimately proved unpalatable, however, to a middle-class America singing along with the sanitized offerings of Fabian and Ricky Nelson, so in 1959 Vincent moved to England, finding his most enthusiastic audiences across Europe. His leather-clad, street-tough persona and raucous rockabilly stylings met with instant acclaim; Vincent quickly became a revered hero of teenaged England and the idol of aspiring musicians like John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and Jeff Beck.
Race with the Devil digs deeply into the devastating personal struggles that darkened Vincent's life at nearly every turn. From the motorcycle accident at age twenty that left the singer with a permanent, painful leg injury (remedied with a metal brace he would wear the rest of his life), to his lifelong struggle with alcoholism—which took its toll in erratic and frequently violent behavior—Gene Vincent's life is startlingly revealed. From the 1960 car crash that killed his dearest friend, fellow rocker Eddie Cochran, and from which he never psychologically recovered, to the constant infighting with friends, family, and band members, to his death by internal hemorrhaging at age 36, Race with the Devil is a riveting look at an incredible life of rock 'n' roll triumph, torment, and tragedy.