Celebrity Studies: Book Review – The death and resurrection of Elvis Presley

The death and resurrection of Elvis Presley, by Ted Harrison, London, Reaktion Books, 2016, 272 pp., £16.00 (hardback), ISBN: 978-1-78-023637-7

The posthumous life of Elvis is an enduring and dauntingly large topic. The recent documentary Orion: The Man Who Would be King (dir. Finlay, 2015), telling the story of mask-wearing Elvis impersonator Jimmy Ellis who was rumoured to be the King himself, showed how fandom, authenticity, the secular saint and conspiracy theories are at the centre of the Elvis cult, and these are all ideas with which Ted Harrison’s The Death and Resurrection of Elvis Presley concerns itself. While Greil Marcus’ (1991) landmark Dead Elvis is yet to be challenged in terms of its deep engagement with the cultural uses of Elvis Presley beyond his death, this lively, popular volume reconfirms, in time for the 40th anniversary of Elvis’ death in 2017, that there is still much work to be done on his legacy. Combining a history of the mismanagement and saving of Elvis’ estate (the real ‘resurrection’ here, in fact) with an exploration of the Elvis fan cult and its religious aspects, this book is stronger in telling the story of the former than fully elucidating the latter, although Harrison provides some useful insights into fandom as faith…

Celebrity Studies, Vol. 8, No. 2 (2017), pp. 359-361.

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