This is the very interesting and thought provoking biography of Richard Pryor (1940-2005) - whose full name was actually Richard Franklin Lennox Thomas Pryor III. He was born in Peoria, Illinois, USA, to a mother who worked as a prostitute (and eventually owned a string of successful brothels), and a father who was a boxer and bartender. Between 1958-60, Pryor volunarily served in the US Army, where he was trained as a plumber and stationed in Germany, ensuring the US Army's utilities staged functioning. Prior to joining tharmy, Pryor new that he could make people laugh, but it wasn't until 1963 that he pursued what would be a remarkable comic career, after being thrown out the family house by his father.
The paperback (2005) edition contains 280 numbered pages, contains an Introduction, an Epilogue and is separated into three sections:
Part 1 - Chapters 1-17.
Part 2 - Chapters 18-29.
Part 3 - Chapters 30-34.
Epilogue By Jennifer Lee Pryor.
A semi-fictional Black American character named Mudbone narrates the Introduction and the first chapters of the other two parts of the book. Mudbone presents an over view of the different aspects of Richard Pryor's life, as presented in the three parts of the book. Part of these narratives convey a dialogue between Richard Pryor and Mudbone - perhaps signalling that the character 'Mudbone' infact represents Pryor's inner dialogue, with himself. However, 'Mudbone' is a character that Pryor used on stage, claiming that he was based upon a person Pryor knew in his youth. Whatever the case, these opening chapters represent an earthy and honest wisdom. As an autobiography (as opposed to a biography penned by another), this book covers Pryor's life from birth to around 1993/94 - a time when Pryor's multiple sclerosis symptoms appeared to be getting the better of him. He was diagnosed with MS in 1986, after suffering heart problems since a heart-attack as far back as 1977. His health problems were compounded by an acute adduction to crack cocaine, an addiction that led to him setting himself ablaze and suffering terrible burns as a consequwnce in 1980. Jennifer Lee Pryor - (his seventh marriage) - rekindled her relationship with Pryor in the mid-90's, looking after him until his death in 2005 - they were re-married in 2001. Pryor dedicates this book 'To My Angels'.
Pryor married a number of times, and this included re-marrying women he previously had divorced. He also fathered a number of children during his 65 years and had affairs with mant other women, and in this book, he even admits to a brief intimate relationship with a with trans-sexual male partner who preferred to dress as a woman. Pryor's humour drew exclusively upon his experience as a Black American man, brought up in a predominately White (i.e. 'European') inspired America, as the descendent of a slaving population, who, as a people, were stolen from their homeland of Africa and brought to America to work the fields in the most physical, emotional, psychological and spiritually degrading manner that can be imagined. Richard Pryor - as a very intelligent man living within a world of prejudice and discrimination, used his mind expertly, and through the medium of 'humour', strove to educate those who would listen to him.
This book is testimony to this fact. As with his mentor and inspiration - Malcolm X - Richard Pryor travelled to Africa and the experience changed his life and his outlook forever - in many ways, this experience broke him free of the racial stereotypes prevalent within the culture of America, as he experienced it. a spiritually uplifting book in everyway.