Book Review: "Elvis The Biography"
Jerry Hopkins, Plexus, London, 2007, Softcover, 416 pages, Illustrated, Index, ISBN-13: 9780859653918/ISBN-10: 98596533919
“Finally, a definitive one volume Elvis biography.” Dr John Walker, ElvisBookResearch
"In 1969, when I was interviewing Jim Morrison for Rolling Stone, he said he'd read a paperback history of rock and roll that I'd written and wondered if I was planning another book. I said I was thinking about writing a biography of Frank Zappa. He said, "I'd like to read a book about Elvis." Jerry Hopkins
The first serious Elvis biography (Elvis A Biography) was published in 1971. Reaching the top of numerous best seller lists around the world, Jerry Hopkins biography of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll was irresistible reading for millions of Elvis’ fans and those simply wanting to understand more about the 20th century‘s pre-eminent cultural icon.
It was followed in 1980 by a sequel (Elvis The Final Years), completing the remaining years of Elvis’ extraordinary but flawed life. Hopkins would also author two books about Elvis’ love affair with Hawaii (Elvis In Hawai’i and Aloha Elvis).
The 2007 edition of Elvis The Biography combines revised editions of the earlier two volume biography and adds new material advancing the Elvis story to the sale of EPE in 2005 to entrepreneur, Robert Sillerman.
Avoiding the, at times, anal retentive minutae of the first Guralnick tome and the high brow intellegentia approach of Marsh, Hopkins provides arguably the most accessible, readable and intriguing Elvis biography.
I have always believed the Hopkins telling of Elvis’ story was made for all fans while Guralnick’s two volume biography is better suited to those wanting doses of on-the-road type trivia and the cerebral Marsh thought piece satisfies the more deeply thinking fans.
Hopkins has a fluent and evocative style without being florid. His narrative is carefully considered and paints a multilayered canvass of Elvis’ complex life and legacy. Rich in nuance and fully expressive of Elvis’ musical talent, his great humanity towards others, and his personal struggles, Hopkins is to be congratulated on objectively providing a cogent and fascinating examination of Elvis the man, Elvis the artist, and Elvis the icon.
An inherent strength of Elvis The Biography is the author’s ability to piece together not only the psychology of Elvis but also that of those around him. Throughout Elvis The Biography there are intriguing accounts of how the relative personalities and agendas played out behind the scenes, often to Elvis' detriment.
Hopkins’ account (p. 332) of the infamous 1974 “catfish” incident in Greensboro, North Carolina and the apparent blindness of the crowd to Elvis’ sad outburst, is but one example of his ability to laterally perceive and go beyond one dimensional surface realities.
Another strength of Hopkin's tome is his ability to set the scene and evoke wonderful imagery of the times:
Tupelo is the seat of Lee County, one of several poor rural counties in the northeastern corner of Mississippi, about halfway between Memphis and Birmingham, where, roughly, the rich farming soil of the Midwestern prairie meets the harsh brick-colored soil of the Southeast. Oldtown and Mud creeks bisect the town and dozens more vein the rolling countryside, many of them carrying Indian names.
Early alternate cover for the revised edition of 'Elvis A Biography'
Hopkins' entertaining Elvis biography involved years of research and interviews with many who were there at different parts of the Elvis story, from high school teachers, old classmates and girlfriends to members of the Memphis Mafia, sound engineers, disc jockeys, movie directors, doctors and jewelers. Hopkins does not shy away from Elvis' sad decline and paints a vivid picture of a man struggling with inner demons:
Such highs in Elvis’s life inevitably were followed by depression.
There are numerous fascinating stories throughout Elvis The Biography, many which will not be familiar to fans. For example, the story of a nurse dating Memphis Mafia member Al Strada, who Elvis decided he wanted on his payroll:
Several on the hospital staff, including Dr Nick, tried to change her mind, but she was convinced. When word of her hiring reached the Colonel in California, however, the tide turned quickly. He didn't believe Elvis needed a nurse with him - certainly not one that was going with one of the bodyguards - and thought her presence would be bad for Elvis' image. The Colonel called Joe and Joe talked to Elvis, who wanted to see that the nurse kept her hospital job. Joe saw that that was done and then broke the news to the young nurse.
The subtle changing of the title from Elvis A Biography to Elvis The Biography is a telling point about how this edition is to be considered.
Verdict: Finally, a definitive one volume biography about Elvis - a mandatory inclusion in all fan's Elvis libraries. With Christmas fast approaching Elvis The Biography is the ideal present for any Elvis fan......including yourself!
"Elvis The Biography" is now available in the UK , Australia and New Zealand from all good bookstores
Buy "Elvis The Biography" (Australia/New Zealand)
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Comment on this review
EIN's Piers Beagley had a rather different opinion of Hopkin's new book. In his review he finds too many factual errors and believes that Hopkins has "put his career on "automatic pilot" and stopped growing. He weakened his standards. He wasted his talent" Read our alternate review here
Read EIN's reviews of other Elvis books by Jerry Hopkins:
EIN’s alternate review of 'Elvis The Biography' by Piers Beagley
Elvis In Hawai'i