A controversial country-music sensation imparts tales of struggle and success.
Equally lauded and maligned for his 1992 breakthrough single, “Achy Breaky Heart,” Billy Ray Cyrus had to fight for respect from Nashville’s recording elite. He was uniquely poised for such a battle; far from being the Johnny-come-lately that the media portrayed, Cyrus had paid his dues performing in country-rock bar bands throughout Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia since the early 1980s. His youth in Appalachia had also given him a strong connection with nature, a sturdy Christian faith, and a devotion to family and music that sustained him through tough times. Cyrus was no choirboy, though; he admits to rabble-rousing, drinking and womanizing in the classic “outlaw country” style, and these portions of the narrative re-create that period of his life with a reckless flair. Nor has his trajectory been a straightforward ascent to fame. After the immense popularity of his debut, Cyrus failed to achieve a similar level of success with his subsequent albums, none of which have sold nearly as well. In the 2000s, he pursued roles in TV and movies and watched his daughter Miley rocket to stardom (and scandal) as Disney’s “Hannah Montana.” He also became an advocate for military veterans—many of whom have given him their medals as tokens of appreciation—and natural-disaster victims, raising money on their behalf via concerts and a philanthropic foundation. Told in a natural and candid tone, the book will please country-music fans and may even win over some skeptics.
Although the narrative occasionally veers into aw-shucks-I’m-just-a-country-boy territory, this is a warm account of a star who has managed to remain humble.