A “sympathetic and exceptionally well-written account” (USA Today), Ray Connolly’s biography of the King soars with “spontaneity and electricity” (Preston Lauterbach).
Elvis Presley is a giant figure in American popular culture, a man whose talent and fame were matched only by his later excesses and tragic end. A godlike entity in the history of rock and roll, this twentieth-century icon with a dazzling voice blended gospel and traditionally black rhythm and blues with country to create a completely new kind of music and new way of expressing male sexuality, which simply blew the doors off a staid and repressed 1950s America.
In Being Elvis veteran rock journalist Ray Connolly takes a fresh look at the career of the world’s most loved singer, placing him, forty years after his death, not exhaustively in the garish neon lights of Las Vegas but back in his mid-twentieth-century, distinctly southern world. For new and seasoned fans alike, Connolly, who interviewed Elvis in 1969, re-creates a man who sprang from poverty in Tupelo, Mississippi, to unprecedented overnight fame, eclipsing Frank Sinatra and then inspiring the Beatles along the way.
Juxtaposing the music, the songs, and the incendiary live concerts with a personal life that would later careen wildly out of control, Connolly demonstrates that Elvis’s amphetamine use began as early as his touring days of hysteria in the late 1950s, and that the financial needs that drove him in the beginning would return to plague him at the very end. With a narrative informed by interviews over many years with John Lennon, Bob Dylan, B. B. King, Sam Phillips, and Roy Orbison, among many others, Connolly creates one of the most nuanced and mature portraits of this cultural phenomenon to date.
What distinguishes Being Elvis beyond the narrative itself is Connolly’s more subtle examinations of white poverty, class aspirations, and the prison that is extreme fame. As we reach the end of this poignant account, Elvis’s death at forty-two takes on the hue of a profoundly American tragedy. The creator of an American sound that resonates today, Elvis remains frozen in time, an enduring American icon who could “seamlessly soar into a falsetto of pleading and yearning” and capture an inner emotion, perhaps of eternal yearning, to which all of us can still relate.
Intimate and unsparing, Being Elvis explores the extravagance and irrationality inherent in the Elvis mythology, ultimately offering a thoughtful celebration of an immortal life.
|Publisher:||Liveright Publishing Corporation|
|Product dimensions:||5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.10(d)|
About the Author
Ray Connolly is a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter. While working for the London Evening Standard, he interviewed, among others, many rock stars and cultural icons of the 1960s and ’70s, including the Beatles and Elvis Presley. He contributes regularly to the Daily Mail and has also written for the Sunday Times, the Times, and the Daily Telegraph. He lives in London.
Table of Contents
Author's Note xv
1 "Well, the bear shall be gentle" 1
2 "Don't you worry none, Mama" 9
3 "I would just sit there in class" 15
4 "I don't sound like nobody" 23
5 "What the hell y'all doin' in there?" 31
6 "What happened, what happened?" 37
7 "Doesn't everbody love their parents?" 45
8 "That Colonel … he's the Devil himself" 53
9 "I'm like a Mississippi bullfrog" 64
10 "Why should music contribute to juvenile delinquency?" 73
11 "The colored folks have been singing and playing" 82
12 "Imagine! A Memphis boy with Natalie Wood" 91
13 "I hate to get started in these jam sessions" 99
14 "I wish we was poor again" 104
15 "Hang up your pretty stocking" 112
16 "This rancid-smelling aphrodisiac, rock and roll" 119
17 "I'm lucky to be in a position to give" 126
18 "Wake up, Mama" 132
19 "The world is more alive at night" 141
20 "There was a little girl that I was seeing" 150
21 "Whatever I become, will be what God has chosen for me" 157
22 "I didn't have any say-so in it all" 165
23 The schoolgirl who carried a derringer in her bra 172
24 "If we can control sex …" 181
25 "The only thing worse than watching a bad movie" 189
26 "If you guys are just going to sit and stare" 196
27 "I know that I'm a joke in this town" 201
28 "Some of you maybe think that Elvis is Jesus Christ" 206
29 "What am I going to do if they don't like me?" 212
30 "And what was I thinking?" 219
31 "I want musicians who can play every kind of music" 224
32 "I dont't want some sonofabitch crazy bastard" 230
33 "Mr. President, you got your show to run" 239
34 "I was a dreamer" 245
35 "It's very hard to live up to an image" 250
36 "Sorry that I didn't break his goddamned neck" 259
37 "If you want me to leave" 268
38 "I'd rather be unconscious than miserable" 275
39 "I'm self-destructive, I know" 282
40 "I get carried away very easily" 290
41 "I don't know who to talk to anymore" 295
42 "I'm just so tired of being Elvis Presley" 304
43 "A lonely life ends" 311
After Elvis Died What Happened To …? 319
Elvis Presley's Best Recordings 323
Picture Credits 347