Richard Pryor Haunts Top Five

December 18, 2014 12:53 AM

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Recently I finished reading Furious Cool, a breezy yet reflective take on the life of Richard Pryor. Rather than present Pryor as merely a pioneering stand-up comic, authors David and Joe Henry position Pryor as a transcendent black entertainer, an essential link from the segregated time of the chitlin' circuit to today's world.

Pryor, the book asserts, was born from a rich tradition, a hidden culture that informed many civil-rights leaders in overt and subtle ways. Later, as he entered the mainstream, his struggles with his identity as a black public figure -- and what it means to "sell out" -- drove his self-destruction a...

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