OK, so we’re talking Othello. And I’ve titled this entry “The Killer!” So who am I talking about? Othello, who kills Desdemona and then himself? Nope. Iago, who kills Roderigo and then his wife Emilia? Nope. Well, kinda, but not really.
What? you say. Bill, you say, you’re making no sense. Is the grief fog so thick you can’t see the content for this post from the too-smart-by-half title?
The Killer is not the character, but the actor.
In the late 1950’s, the nascent era for rock’n’roll, a wildman performer out of Louisiana (where as a child he had picked up the nickname “killer,” which was common, like “buster” or “bud”), moved up to Memphis, Tennessee, and became a star through the Sun Records label. That pugnacious piano-player? One Jerry Lee Lewis.
Jerry Lee Lewis was “the Killer.”
But what, oh patient reader, does this have to do with our play under discussion?
In the late 1960’s, a producer by the name of Jack Good created a rock’n’roll musical version of Othello, called Catch My Soul, and he tapped Lewis to be his Iago.
WFMU’s Beware of the Blog blog, has a great piece on the subject titled, “Whole Lotta Shakespeare Goin’ On.” It includes links to digital downloads of two songs recorded by Jerry Lee–”Let a Soldier Drink” and “Lust of the Blood,” as well as a song from a later version of the project, Tony Joe White’s altered version of “Let a Soldier Drink” called “Drink the Wine” in the character of Cassio.
Oogum Boogum has a pretty good discussion of it as well, but it uses the WFMU Beware of the Blog as its main source.
The Dreamtime podcast has a great article on it as well, this one filled with background info.
And the ShakespeareFlix site has two nice pieces on it as well, focusing on the relationship of the lyrics of both “Lust of the Blood” and ”Let a Soldier Drink” to Shakespeare’s text.
It’s all pretty cool… I would have loved to see (and hear) this…
4 Replies to “The Killer! not what you’re thinking…”
I saw this in Los Angeles at the Music Center. The Killer was amazing. So sorry a cast album was never made.
Seriously, you saw this?
Man, I would love to hear some of your memories/recollections/impressions!
I also saw this play at the Music Center in ’68. I was newly married to my first wife and was the editor of the Santa Monica CC Corsair. Can’t remember much about the play other than Lewis working furiously at his piano and the large audience well into it all. I think I wrote a review of it but just can’t recollect.
Thanks for this, Bruce!
I’d LOVE to get my hands on actual in-person review…