ALL SHOOK UP by Barry Denenberg


The Life and Death of Elvis Presley
Age Range: 11 - 14
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Denenberg constructs the tragedy of Elvis Presley’s life in a series of chapters that take their titles from rock and rockabilly songs. Part I covers 1935–58, from Elvis’s birth and hardscrabble childhood (“Tupelo Honey” to “Graceland”) to the long strange descent, (“Ain’t Got You” to “Trying to Get to Heaven”) masterminded mostly by the craven “Colonel” Tom Parker, 1959–77. Elvis’s family was genuine white trash and his feckless father and smothering mom set the stage for his complete failure at personal relationships for the rest of his life. His brilliant musical gifts, which shone so brightly in the Sun Studio recordings of Sam Phillips, were utterly dissipated as Parker manipulated him into bad music and worse movies in the name of almighty money. The genius of Denenberg’s approach is his use of language, a youthful-sounding echo of how Elvis himself might have told the story. The result is an extremely accessible account, filled not only with the details of a life (page after fascinating page), but the psychology of it as well. Young readers who only know the bloated caricature will come to understand how it was that he captured a generation, changed the history of music, and lost himself in a world of excess. (chronology, bibliography, videography, discography, filmography, index, photo credits, song credits) (Biography. 11-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-439-09504-2
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Scholastic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2001


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