The premise of Destined to Die Young is as its title explains. Elvis Presley’s family medical history made his early demise almost a certainty. No, says author Sally A. Hoedel, a lifelong Elvis fan, historian and journalist, Elvis Presley did not die a drug addict; he died a very sick man.
I am not a fan-cub-type Elvis fan, though I was a fan. However, I was curious when the premise of the 335-page paperback book was first mentioned to me. Fortunately, the book brought me up to date, Elvis-wise. The reader is told about the very poor family Elvis came from; about the grandparents who married cousins, about his family’s first “decent” environment when his mother and father were given access to subsidized housing in Memphis, about Elvis’s dream to provide the nicer things for his parents and friends, about his mother’s medical history and then about Elvis’s career and his medical issues.
Author Hoedel may have been a fan, but she did a great deal of research for the book as evidenced by the Notes and References at the end of the book.
I learned a lot. For instance, I had no idea how very poor Elvis’s parents were and how hard they worked just to get by. Elvis’s background, while also grounded in love, did not prepare the entertainer for fame and the business aspects of that fame. Elvis allowed Colonel Tom Parker to manage and ultimately collect up to 50 percent of his client’s earnings.
The author relates that Elvis Presley had lifelong medical problems with sleeplessness and constipation. Those problems, plus others inherited from his family, meant that the handsome “fit” ‘Elvis was nothing like the image. He was also so generous to friends and family that in the later months of his life, when he should have “taken it easy”, he was completing a hectic performance schedule to earn money — money he personally needed. He had even sought loans to fulfill obligations.
In the end, despite rumors that Elvis Presley was simply a drug addict, Hoedel proved to this reader that Elvis was a very sick man who took many drugs to “stay” Elvis and be able to perform. Hoedel says rather convincingly that Elvis Presley would have died at any early age even if he hadn’t gained worldwide fame.
I recommend this book to anyone who is or was an Elvis fan, Being reminded of all the details of Elvis Presley’s life will bring back many memories. The end of Elvis’s life may bring tears, however.
Elvis Presley died at age 42. His mother died at age 46.