September 30, 2012

Elton John: Love Is The Cure...

Musical icon Sir Elton John is an amazing musician and live performer; years ago I saw him perform with Billy Joel and they blew the roof off the place.

John is one of those rare celebrities whose fame continued for decades, and he is almost as well known for his crazy 70s fashions and wild 70s/80s lifestyle as he is for his music.... sequins, big red glasses, drugs, rehab, bisexuality, eating disorders, platform shoes and so much more...

Now happily married to Canadian David Furnish and father of a young boy, Elton John is focusing more on his AIDS work and his foundation. Saying he is lucky to be alive after all his adventures in the 80s, John was one of the first celebrities to speak out about the AIDS crisis.

Now Elton has published his first book, Love Is The Cure,  and it is the personal and passionate story of his fight to end AIDS.

In the 1980s, Elton John saw friend after friend die from AIDS-related causes. In the midst of the plague, he befriended Ryan White, a young Indiana boy ostracized by his town and school because of the HIV infection he contracted from a blood transfusion. Ryan's inspiring life and devastating death led Elton to realize that his own life was a mess and that he had to do something to help stop the AIDS crisis.

Since then, Elton has dedicated himself to overcoming the plague and the stigma of AIDS. The Elton John AIDS Foundation has raised over $275 million towards fighting the disease. Love Is The Cure is the story of his foundation, and is also Elton's personal account of his life during the AIDS epidemic, including stories of his friendships with Ryan White, Freddie Mercury, Princess Diana, Elizabeth Taylor, and others.

This book is an educational essay on AIDS and its impact, on who is impacted and what can be done about it. It highlights how racism and homophobia have delayed research. It has sad and inspiring stories, and it touched me more than I expected it to. It is also combative, and Elton takes on the Pope and George Bush with no holds barred; I wanted to cheer.

With powerful conviction and emotional force, Elton conveys the personal toll AIDS has taken on his life  and his infinite determination to stop its spread:

This is a disease that must be cured not by a miraculous vaccine, but by changing hearts and minds, and through a collective effort to break down social barriers and to build bridges of compassion. Why are we not doing more This is a question I have thought deeply about, and wish to answer - and help to change - by writing this book.

This book is not a self-fawning celebrity autobiography. While it does include a lot of Elton's life memoir, it is mostly a social justice essay, and a plea for help in the fight against AIDS.

Elton believes that if governments, private companies, nonprofits, and individuals could shed their prejudices and shortsightedness, and do their fair share, we could see the end of AIDS in the foreseeable future. He says it's the lack of commitment to eliminating AIDS rather than an inability to do so that is now the chief obstacle in the fight against AIDS. 

Let me be perfectly blunt, and unapologetically so: if we demonstrated the same compassion for gay men, poor people, minorities, sex workers, prisoners, and drug users that we for other, less marginalized people, there would be no more AIDS in America. The reality is that until we give everybody the same access to treatment and prevention, AIDS will never, ever go away. It's that simple.

Love is the Cure is eye-opening and inspiring. I was amazed at times, and I got misty a few times. It is an emotional and educational read.

One of the reasons I bought this book is that the sale of Love Is the Cure will benefit the Elton John AIDS Foundation. Buy it.