Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley

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9780316332224: Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley

Careless Love is the full, true, and mesmerizing story of Elvis Presley's last two decades, in the long-awaited second volume of Peter Guralnick's masterful two-part biography.

Last Train to Memphis, the first part of Guralnick's two-volume life of Elvis Presley, was acclaimed by the New York Times as "a triumph of biographical art." This concluding volume recounts the second half of Elvis' life in rich and previously unimagined detail, and confirms Guralnick's status as one of the great biographers of our time.

Beginning with Presley's army service in Germany in 1958 and ending with his death in Memphis in 1977, Careless Love chronicles the unravelling of the dream that once shone so brightly, homing in on the complex playing-out of Elvis' relationship with his Machiavellian manager, Colonel Tom Parker. It's a breathtaking revelatory drama that for the first time places the events of a too-often mistold tale in a fresh, believable, and understandable context.

Elvis' changes during these years form a tragic mystery that Careless Love unlocks for the first time. This is the quintessential American story, encompassing elements of race, class, wealth, sex, music, religion, and personal transformation. Written with grace, sensitivity, and passion, Careless Love is a unique contribution to our understanding of American popular culture and the nature of success, giving us true insight at last into one of the most misunderstood public figures of our times.

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Review:

Until Peter Guralnick came out with Last Train to Memphis in 1994, most biographies of Elvis Presley--especially those written by people with varying degrees of access to his "inner circle"--were filled with starstruck adulation, and those that weren't in awe of their subject invariably went out of their way to take potshots at the rock & roll pioneer (with Albert Goldman's 1981 Elvis reaching now-legendary levels of bile and condescension). Guralnick's exploration of Elvis's childhood and rise to fame was notable for its factual rigorousness and its intimate appreciation of Presley's musical agenda.

Picking up where the first volume left off, Guralnick sees Elvis through his tour of duty with the U.S. Army in Germany, where he first met--and was captivated by--a 14-year-old girl named Priscilla Beaulieu. We may think we know the story from this point: the return to America, the near-decade of B-movies, eventual marriage to Priscilla, a brief flash of glory with the '68 comeback, and the surrealism of "fat Elvis" decked out in bejeweled white jumpsuits, culminating in a bathroom death scene. And while that summary isn't exactly false, Guralnick's account shows how little perspective we've had on Elvis's life until now, how a gross caricature of the final years has come to stand for the life itself. He treats every aspect of Presley's life--including forays into spiritual mysticism and the growing dependency on prescription drugs--with dignity and critical distance. More importantly, Careless Love continues to show that Guralnick "gets" what Presley was trying to do as an artist: "I see him in the same way that I think he saw himself from the start," the introduction states, "as someone whose ambition it was to encompass every strand of the American musical tradition." From rock to blues to country to gospel, Guralnick discusses how, at his finest moments, Elvis was able to fulfill that dream. --Ron Hogan

About the Author:

"Peter Guralnick is widely regarded as the nation's preeminent writer on twentieth-century American popular music. His books include Feel Like Going Home, Lost Highway, Sweet Soul Music, Searching for Robert Johnson, the novel Nighthawk Blues, and a highly acclaimed two-volume biography of Elvis Presley, Last Train to Memphis and Careless Love."

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