The more we learn about Elvis Presley, the more sad and pathetic his life seems to have been. Presley's apologists will maintain, of course, that his music and presence were so world-changing that they renderall his other personal characteristics moot. But as the audience that wasinitially transformed by his music grows older, the bulk of the populationis left with the image of a man whose excesses ate him alive. That isbasically the story Peter Harry Brown and Pat H. Broeske relate in Down at the End of Lonely Street: The Life and Death of Elvis Presley.
Without ignoring or minimizing Presley's astounding talent andcharisma, the authors provide us a parallel account of his descent into anexhausting and ultimately joyless hedonism. It reveals a man for whomsolitude was horrifying and whose most creative thinking was devoted to theacquisition of drugs. Squeezed on the one side by his hard-driving,Machiavellian manager, Colonel Tom Parker, and on the other by his owninsatiable appetites for food, women, drugs, and respect, Presley is asdoomed as the hero in a Greek tragedy but without the moral stature. Thesinger shines brightest in this book during his days as a conscientious,high-achieving soldier in Germany. Although Brown and Broeske cover much the same ground as the legionof other Presley biographers, they do offer a more thorough and up-to-dateaccount of his death and a more charitable assessment of Presley's personalphysician, the much vilified George Dr. Nick Nichopoulos. Enriching thetext, which is indexed, are 16 pages of pictures, a chronology of Presley'sentire life, a list (with summaries) of all his movies, a selectivediscography, and a list of his television appearances.
Edward Morris is a Nashville-based journalist.