Bad genes, not rock ‘n’ roll excess, killed Elvis Presley, says biographer

Bad genes, not rock ‘n’ roll excess, killed Elvis Presley, says biographer

Elvis Presley, who died 44 years ago this month, was not an addict in the typical sense of the rock’n’roll lifestyle, new book claims, but he was on medication to treat a range of birth defects .

According to Elvis: destined to die young, the singer’s downward spiral, punctuated by health problems consistently seen as consequences of addiction, could have been caused by Presley’s maternal grandparents, who were first cousins. Her mother’s family – including three uncles – were cursed with untimely death, says author Sally Hoedel.

Hoedel, a historian, says it was no coincidence that Presley’s mother Gladys died at 46 and Presley at 42. as he took it.

Hoedel writes that Presley’s health issues were linked to his life story and that he suffered from illnesses in nine of the 11 bodily systems. Five of these pathological processes, she says, were present from birth. Examining them, she believes, is a way to “humanize” the mythical figure of Presley, who later in life was known for his stoutness and indulgent appetite.

“Elvis is seen as less or more than human, like an image, and he’s been reduced to that type of rock’n’roll who died in his bathroom after taking too many pills,” Hoedel told the Observer.

“This is not enough for a man who has culturally changed our world. It is not precise and it is not sufficient. Elvis was a sick man who hid much of his weakness to fill concert halls and provide for his family. By examining his flaws and health issues, we may be able to begin to see his humanity again. “

Two-year-old Elvis with his parents Vernon and Gladys Presley in 1937 in Tupelo, Mississippi. Photograph: Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

Hoedel, a longtime fan, believes that much of the singer’s literature, starting with Albert Goldman’s 1981 Elvis, have distorted her image, and she feels that a review is overdue. “Elvis changed our world culturally like no one before and he deserves to be treated like a historical figure, like Henry Ford or Thomas Edison, but instead he is weighed down with sensationalism, and it takes us away from the truth.” , she says.

While some have sought to portray the family as highlanders, the author points out that mixed marriages were not unusual in society at the time. Presley’s ancestors may have made marriage choices because of poverty and closeness, but Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt married to keep the family wealth.

“If we can eliminate the negative connotations and then examine the consequences, there is a lot of truth to be discovered,” says Hoedel. Among Presley’s diseases attributed to his genes were a deficiency in alpha-1-antitrypsin, which can attack the lungs and liver; colon problems; immune deficiency and permanent insomnia.

His health problems, often seen as resulting from the abuse of prescription drugs permitted by his infamous doctor, George “Nick” Nichopoulos, could therefore be attributed in the first place not to over-medication but to health problems that Presley and his doctors were trying to solve. to treat.

“His health issues were varied, but he hid them so well that the excess of medication is all we remember now,” says Hoedel. “It became a problem, but why was he taking them in the first place? “

“Dr. Nick is a controversial figure. From my research, he was still trying to help Elvis, but the line between a friend and a doctor blurred, ”says Hoedel. “One of the reasons Elvis turned to the drug was pain. He took too much sometimes, but he treated himself because he was trying to find a way to be Elvis Presley.

Elvis Presley performing, c1957. Photographie : Archives Hulton/Getty Images

Addiction specialists might call this an elaborate rationalization and justification, but Hoedel says Presley also felt responsible for his family (up to 10 members lived with him in Graceland), his group, and the Memphis Mafia – the courtiers who surrounded him. him. “By the time he went on tour again in the 1970s, he numbered over 100 people. He says, “I’m sick, I don’t feel good, but I can’t stop because everyone is counting on me.”

Hoedel believes Presley was not an addict seeking to escape reality. “The story of Elvis is seen as a story of destruction, but it’s a futile struggle for survival, through poverty and then health problems,” she says. “It was hard being Elvis, no one had known such glory before, and no one else could do it for him. He was trying to function in his reality.


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