BOOK REVIEW: BEING ELVIS – A LONELY LIFE by Ray Connolly
Hachette Australia – rrp$35.00
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar
8 ½ /10
Ray Connolly’s superbly researched book documents the sensational highs and terribly sad lows of Elvis Presley’s career: a career which was, Connolly says, contrary to what he actually wanted to do.
From his dirt-poor upbringing in Tupelo, Mississippi and Memphis, Tennessee, to worldwide fame as the first white singer to translate the underground black music into something palatable for conservative white America, Connolly’s thorough and exacting biography highlights Presley’s naivety, desperation and isolation more than anything else.
Before Elvis there was… no-one. No-one had blazed this trail before him, he simply had no peers to lean on, no frame of reference for business decisions (which he was hopelessly clueless about most of the time, anyway), and he was thoroughly taken advantage of by his entourage of hangers-ons, distant relatives, Hollywood executives and – most diabolically and ruthlessly of all – by the loathesome ‘Colonel’ Tom Parker, his manager for practically all of his adult life.
Parker hid his own demons and selfishness close to his chest, insisting Elvis not tour overseas, forcing songwriters to surrender large percentages of their publishing rights to Elvis in return for him singing their songs – which Parker then took an unproportionate cut of – and forced Elvis to make appalling movies and sing dross songs on a treadmill, purely interested in profit rather than any notion of artistic integrity or legacy.
By the time we get to the end of Connolly’s book we’re unsurprised Presley died a bloated addict: he was bored, he had no-one who could possibly understand his position, he had little control over his professional career, and no-one had the guts to stand up to him or question his bad habits. Such a waste of talent and of life.
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