Published on August 18th, 2012 | by Todd Monahan0
Book Review: Love Is The Cure by Elton John
Love Is The Cure: On Life, Loss And The End Of AIDS
by Elton John
Little, Brown & Company
The majority of media attention currently given to AIDS deals with Sub-Sahara Africa where treatment is not widely available and misinformation has helped cause the spread of the disease. In America, the development of antiretroviral treatments in the late 1990’s greatly impacted the public perception of an illness that caused so much fear and misunderstanding when it first surfaced in the early 1980’s. Whereas diagnosis of HIV was once guaranteed fatal, it can now be managed with medication which allows infected people to live out the majority of their natural life expectancies. The downside of this treatment is that the illness has become marginalized in the minds of many living in the U.S. and other developed countries. In reality, AIDS remains a pandemic illness that kills an estimated 2 million people worldwide per year and has infected 34 million worldwide.
In his new book Love Is The Cure rock musician Elton John writes a personal account of his efforts to fight an illness that took the lives of many of his friends and caused him to found the Elton John AIDS Foundation in 1992. Elton’s path to AIDS awareness and advocacy started with Ryan White, the young boy who became the poster child for social acceptance of AIDS after contracting HIV from a blood transfusion in the early 1980’s. Elton first heard about the Whites in 1985 when Ryan’s mother filed a lawsuit against Western Middle School in Indiana for expelling Ryan from attending classes based on his HIV positive status. Misinformation about the disease had caused many parents and school officials to fear that Ryan could infect others simply by being in the same room with them. The legal battle went back and forth until ultimately a Circuit Court judge put his foot down and ordered that White be allowed to return to school. By then, however, the community of Kokomo, Indiana had turned against the White family, making their lives increasingly difficult. The family was threatened, harassed, and shunned at church. As the media storm on the AIDS epidemic continued to grow, Ryan and his family were increasingly caught in the middle of it.
Like many people, Elton John first learned about White through a news article that covered his plight with his school district and his community. Elton felt for the young man and wanted to help, but was not sure what he could do. He had serious issues in his own life, being mired in long term cocaine and alcohol addiction. He was living the rock star lifestyle to the fullest, which was leading to a path of self-destruction. Elton began to reach out to the Whites anyway, beginning with inviting Ryan to one of his concerts when the boy was well enough to attend. Over the next few years, Elton became very close with the White family, helping them anyway he could. As time went on, he began to see a sharp contrast between himself and the ill boy. Ryan was a dying child who loved life and always remained optimistic while Elton himself was an overindulged rock star who was killing himself through substance abuse. Despite everything he had been through, Ryan saw joy in everything and never felt self pity, while Elton was a miserable wreck despite all his fame and fortune. When Ryan passed away in April of 1990, Elton had become inspired by the courage of his young friend and knew he needed to make some serious changes. This realization, along with other factors in his personal life, led him to enter a treatment program, get clean and sober, and two years later begin to reach out to those dying of AIDS. As he writes in the book, I was a gay man in the ‘80’s who didn’t march…didn’t give the time or effort that I easily could have…to fight AIDS and support those who had it. All of that changed when he founded the Elton John AIDS Foundation, which has raised over 200 million dollars in fifty five countries over the last twenty years. Elton claims that Ryan not only saved his life by inspiring him to face his addictions, but also inspired him to reach out to others in need. In other words, Elton decided to become the person Ryan thought he was but fell far short of during Ryan’s lifetime.
That story alone is enough to make Love IS The Cure worth reading, but Elton John did not intend for this book to be simply a memoir on his experiences with AIDS victims and how it changed his life. The book is meant to be a work of active philanthropy, by illustrating why AIDS is still relevant today and what we can do to eliminate it. The pop star has been very active in AIDS activism over the last two decades, not only running his foundation but also meeting with many top political leaders, including a couple of former U.S. presidents, in trying to find ways to eliminate the illness worldwide. He uses these experiences to outline his theory on how the battle against AIDS can be won, and why it is easier than many people think. The idea that ‘love is the cure’ may seem like a naive clichÃ© to many, but the book illustrates that the illness cannot be beaten unless we open our hearts to those who are affected and become more educated and involved in its elimination.
There are times when the book gets bogged down in factual information, and Elton John is at his most convincing when he focuses on the personal stories of those he knew or met over the years that were battling the disease. Despite a few areas where the narrative drags, most of the book is warm and inspiring, full of informative facts and heartening firsthand accounts. The book’s large text and simple style make it a quick, easy read. Regardless of whether you like Elton John’s music or not, Love IS The Cure should prove to be an inspiring account from a well known celebrity who has used his resources to reach out to those inflicted with this terrible illness. Sales of the book go to the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
- Todd Monahan
We have 2 copies of this book to give away. Please leave a comment below if you would like one. First come first serve folks.