Being Elvis: A Lonely Life

Being Elvis: A Lonely Life

by Ray Connolly


View All Available Formats & Editions
Usually ships within 6 days


On the fortieth anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death comes this rocking biography of an iconic artist who fundamentally transformed American culture.

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.

Related collections and offers

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781631492808
Publisher: Liveright Publishing Corporation
Publication date: 03/21/2017
Pages: 384
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.40(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

Acknowledgments xi

Author's Note xv

Foreword xvii

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

Afterword 316

After Elvis Died What Happened To …? 319

Elvis Presley's Best Recordings 323

Notes 327

Bibliography 343

Picture Credits 347

Index 348

Customer Reviews