Book Reviews

Lee, Myself, and I: Inside The Very Special World of Lee Hazlewood (Jawbone Press)

lee

Lee, Myself, and I: Inside The Very Special World of Lee Hazlewood
Wyndham Wallace
Jawbone Press

Lee Hazlewood was a rogue, a singer-songwriter with a whiskey-and-cigarettes stained voice, and an extremely prickly personality. You’ve probably heard his biggest hit: best known for his standard “These Books Are Made For Walkin’,” which was written for singer and duet partner, Nancy Sinatra. In the Eighties and Nineties, he would develop a cult following in the musical underground, a name for the cognoscenti to drop, with his albums becoming major collector’s items. Unfortunately, his temper—rivaled only by Ginger Baker—practically assured that he would never really be able to rise beyond that cult status.

Journalist, record label employee, and record collector Wyndham Wallace was dispatched in 1999 to work with Hazlewood. Aware of his personality, and in awe of the man, Wallace nervously meets with him—an event so stressful it caused him to start smoking again—but as their meeting went well, he soon finds himself developing a professional relationship with him. Lee, Myself, and I tells the tale of their working relationship, which soon buds into a close friendship.  The text is divided into two sections: the beginning of their friendship in the late 1990s, based around Lee’s debut live performance in London, and the end of their friendship, at what was purported to be his final birthday party in 2006, and his actual final party, in 2007, a few weeks before his death.

It’s an interesting approach—evaluating a friendship via its bookends, and then examining inward—but Wallace writes vividly, and his style flows quite well, which brings the story to life. Then again, Hazlewood is a character, and he doesn’t disappoint; he seemingly gets upset at everyone quite a bit, but in a way that’s often humorous in its manner, and always charming enough to lead most people back into his orbit. While the progression of “angry faxes” he received from Hazlewood and his constant demands for more money must have sent Wallace heading for the smokes, the booze, and the antacids—by the time of the final birthday party, where Lee gets upset when the cake is brought and demands it be done again, as he didn’t think it was filmed the first time—Wallace is an old pro, and this tantrum is par for the course—almost expected, as it were.

And yet…by the heartbreaking conclusion, we still don’t know who the enigmatic Lee Hazlewood was. He’s never fully revealed, explained, understood, or examined—but then again, how could he be? While his writing is vivid, Wallace is also somewhat guarded, never revealing too much, as if some secrets and some relationships are too cherished for public consumption. An understandable respect for the enigma of the mystery man is clearly at play, which in turn makes the stories Wallace does tell in Lee, Myself, and I even more precious.

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