Forever Elvis - Forty Years On

August 16th 2017

- Spotlight by Piers Beagley

In his all too short career Elvis managed to achieve more than any other entertainer, the birth of rock 'n' roll, his career renaissance after two years in the army, the family entertainment of his sixties movies, the powerful musical comeback of 1969, the on-stage live return-to-splendour of the 70s, the power of his musical creativity throughout his whole career, his unbelievable generosity and more than anything, the love he gave to his devoted fans. 


In 2017 EIN's Piers Beagley looks back at why the legacy of ELVIS is so important to us all forty years on ...

Lisa Marie and Elvis - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Lisa Marie and daughter at the Candlelit Vigil 2017

Forever Elvis 2017 - Forty Years On -

Elvis Presley's death deprives our country of a part of itself. He was unique and irreplaceable. More than 20 years ago, he burst upon the scene with an impact that was unprecedented and will probably never be equalled. His music and his personality, fusing the styles of white country and black rhythm and blues, permanently changed the face of American popular culture. - President Jimmy Carter - August 16, 1977

Here in Australia, the terrible news was reported by ABC radio, August 16th 1977...

“Elvis Presley has died at the age of forty two. He died in a Baptist hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, after being found unconscious in his mansion. An autopsy has shown that he died of a heart ailment.

Elvis Presley had severe cardio-vascular disease, a history of mild hypertension, and some coronary artery disease, which may have caused the severely irregular heartbeat which led to Presley’s death.
But the precise cause of death may never be known.

Both the Medical Examiner and Presley’s personal doctor said some drugs had been given to the singer for his medical condition, but there is no suggestion that he had died from cocaine, or the usage of any other illegal drug.
America has been shocked by Elvis Presley’s death, and the Memphis telephone exchange is jammed with callers.

And, in New York itself, crowds of people have been lining up in record stores trying to buy Elvis Presley records, and all have memories of growing up with The King...

“The first time I saw Elvis perform was back in 1956, when I was just coming out of Junior High School. This was really when he was on the ascendancy, and I’ve seen a lot of great performers in my life, and I would rank what I saw then as high as anything I’ve seen. And he really was an electric performer back in those days. It was, as if Elvis did have some kind of supernatural power.”

In his all too short career Elvis managed to achieve more than any other entertainer, the birth of rock 'n' roll, his career renaissance after two years in the army, the family entertainment of his sixties movies, the powerful musical comeback of 1969, the on-stage live return-to-splendour of the 70s, the power of his musical creativity throughout his whole career, his unbelievable generosity and more than anything, the love he gave to his devoted fans. 

In the last hundred years of popular culture the world has seen many great artists come and go but not one with the impact of Elvis Presley.

Many of these artists have affected our lives in some wonderful way and far too many died too young. These great artists include Jim Morrison, John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Holly, Prince and Michael Jackson yet none of them have had the impact, changed lives or generated the immense amount of enduring love from their fans as Elvis.

It is hard to believe that Elvis died 40 years ago, yet the gathering of his fans in Memphis this year to commemorate this sad occasion was larger than ever before. Their love, respect and dedication to the King of rock 'n' roll is extraordinary. Yet the fans are only returning the love and respect that they feel Elvis gave to them.

The mainstream media also find this dedication to Elvis mindboggling yet hardly a day goes by without some news item, magazine article, new movie or advertisement still using Elvis as a reference point even though he had been gone for forty years.

Elvis touched the soul of every true fan and that hot August night in 1977 the fans returned the love.

No other artist is remembered in this way. The media interest in previous greats such as Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra or Jimi Hendrix has faded – did anyone even acknowledge the fifth anniversary of Michael Jackson’s passing?

Yet in 2017 here we all are once again thinking about tragic end to Elvis' incredible life and how much he did for us in his all too short life-time.


Elvis affects each one of us in different ways, yet it is a fact that his fans can always find happiness through Elvis' music, pure joy in his movies, passion through his onstage performances, heartfelt contemplation in this songs, and comfort though Elvis’ embrace.



Elvis never forgot his fans or where he came from, and we will never forget him.

Long Live ELVIS. 

Three of Elvis’ best friends, Joe Esposito, Marty Lacker and Larry Geller reminisce about his life.


JOE ESPOSITO - "Elvis was the most extraordinary ordinary man"

The morning of the funeral, we had all the flowers from Graceland brought there as well. So many flowers had been sent that the city of Memphis had actually run out.
We caught up on news and tried to comfort each other, mur¬muring the time-worn, soothing platitudes: "He's at peace now," "He's with God," "He's with his mother," "He's with his friends," "He has nothing to worry about now."
We were beginning to accept that Elvis was gone, and that with all his suffering in the past few years, it may have been for the best. He was finally safe. Perhaps death would give him the privacy he had craved.

Elvis lies with his mother, father, and grandmother in Memphis. A plaque by Graceland's meditation garden honours the memory of his twin brother, Jesse Garon. Every year on August 16, a candlelight ceremony is held on the grounds. Every year, more and more fans pledge love to their idol in scribbled messages that cover Graceland's vast stone wall.

Yes, Elvis came to a sad, tragic end and the media tends to focus on people as they were at the end, and Elvis' last few years were certainly not his best.
Yes, there were creative and personal disappointments, but most of Elvis' life and career was exciting and full of fun.

Elvis was not only blessed with unparalleled singing and performing gifts, he was extraordinary in his kindness, generosity, and insight. Elvis made it easy for us to forget who he was to the world.
One afternoon, I was painting fences with him on the ranch. Then, a few days later, he was performing for almost sixty thousand people at the Houston Astrodome.
"OmiGod!" I'd thought. "I forgotten who this guy is!"

Almost everyone who knew the man felt the same way. Every one of us felt close to Elvis and, even more pertinent, we each knew that he understood us in a way no one else did.

Elvis enjoyed his privileges fully and he was grateful. But he never forgot who he was and where he'd come from. He tried to use those gifts to make himself and others happy. If he showed any favouritism at all it wasn't to the wealthy and powerful, but to the needy and helpless.

Elvis was a good guy, there was no harm in Elvis, but there was an awful lot of love.
Elvis was happiest when faced with a challenge, when he didn't know if he could make it or not. Who knew that after eight years of making movies, people would accept him again in his 1968 comeback special? The next year, he walked onto a Las Vegas stage - his first live concert in the town where he had bombed many years earlier—and he inaugurated the most successful phase of his career.

Elvis lived to make people happy, and he himself was happiest when he brought joy to someone else. I wish there was a way all the good he has done with his gifts throughout the world could be measured.

Today, the legend of Elvis Presley is so indelibly engraved in the mass consciousness that his image appears on U.S. postage stamps. His records still get to the top of the pop charts. Not a day goes by without mention of his name. Nearly four decades after his death, Elvis Presley still reigns unchallenged as the King of rock 'n' roll, the greatest superstar the world has ever known.
All the tabloid reporting and ugly rumours can't change the fact that there never was anyone like him and there never will be an¬other again.

The comfort and enjoyment his music still brings to millions every day is impossible to comprehend. His influence as a performer and as a humanitarian has touched untold millions of people. We can never compile exact statistics, but I believe Elvis Presley will forever remain one of the most inspirational and influential men the world will ever know.
Elvis was the most extraordinary ordinary man.


MARTY LACKER - "This world is a better place for Elvis having been here"

There has been so much said and written over the years about Elvis his habits, his family, and his friends that it must be difficult for anyone to separate the wheat from the chaff.

It has been written that Elvis had a death wish, but in fact he often told us about how he wanted to live forever. He would say we were all going to live to be old and grey.
What he did have was an immense thirst for a knowledge of life, the meaning of it, and how it began.

He constantly read about religions and the supernatural. Elvis was curious about reincarnation and life after death. He had a great faith in God upon which he built his life, but he was in no hurry to find out what death was like.

Elvis was truly a remarkable and special human being. I am convinced that he was put on this earth for a special purpose, but he was just as much a human being as any of us.
He suffered from human faults and frailties. He had the material things about which people dream, but often they were not enough to make him happy.

The charisma and magnetism for which he was known was real. He had a smile that could turn the whole world on, and he had a strong hold over those who were associated with him.

It was hard to say no to Elvis, and there was no way I could tell him a lie. All he had to do was look at me and he would know immediately if I was trying to make him believe something that wasn't completely true. His eyes were probably the most expressive part of him.
They told us when he was happy, mischievous or angry.
Sometimes I thought he tried to change their expressions to hide his true thoughts, but he was never able to quite do it.

This world is a better place for Elvis Presley's having been here, and I know that as long as there is one of us alive, whose life he touched, he will still be alive, but I miss him.

I miss the years of kindness and the years of love, and Elvis had a lot of love for all of us.
I remember, God how I remember, the happy days of companionship, the days when we felt so very close to each other.
Ain't it funny how time slips away?


LARRY GELLER - "We're all going back home... someday"

Lonely rivers flow to the sea, to the sea,
       To the open arms of the sea.
    Lonely rivers sigh, wait for me,
                wait for me.
  I'll be coming home, wait for me

From the first time I heard Elvis sing this song in early 1977, I had the strangest feeling that he was singing to his mother. It was as if somewhere deep in his soul he knew he'd be going home soon.
There was an indescribable aura around Elvis when he sang "Unchained Melody," something I'd never experienced before, something I know was felt by everyone in the audience.

A lone spotlight beamed on Elvis in the darkened concert hall. The only sound was his voice and the piano he was playing. The musicians were silent; the whole audience seemed to be holding their breath. Everyone was transfixed.
I never heard his voice so vibrant, so resonant, as if his very soul was crying out.

A little over ten years earlier, upstairs in Elvis' bedroom at Graceland, he and I were talking about his mother's passing in 1958. It was the most turbulent, disoriented and confusing time in his life: drafted into the Army, leaving the career that had exploded two years earlier, uncertain what the future would bring.

Elvis became very quiet, lost in his memories.

"My mother was the light of my life, my best friend; I mean, she's the one I could always go to ... man, that's a blow you can never really get over.
I can still hear her voice telling me just like it was yesterday, "Honey, God took your little brother back home to Heaven 'cause it was part of His plan. He has a plan for everybody: for your daddy, for me... and for you too, Elvis. Someday I'll be goin' back home, and someday Daddy's gonna go home. And even someday a long, long time from now - God's gonna bring you home, too. And then we'll all be together again, all of us back home in heaven.”

Elvis looked at me intently. He leaned forward and with conviction in his voice, said, "And that's exactly what I believe, we're all going back home... someday."

The candlelight vigil on the anniversary of his passing is an event that takes place nowhere else in the celebrity world. The solemn procession of flickering candles advances slowly in the dark, past rows of wreaths and flowered sculptures from fans around the world, as echoes of Elvis play softly in the background.

The lights move through the Meditation Garden, carried by tens of thousands of people from children to the elderly, many placing flowers or teddy bears on his grave. Some are weeping, some are seeking physical or spiritual healing; all are seeking a connection to Elvis. An eternal flame is burning.

The atmosphere is mystical, more akin to a pilgrimage to a holy shrine or a visit to a loved one's grave than adulation of a celebrity.

The people sense there is more to him than they know, an honesty and innocence that shone through the glitz and glamour.

They seem to understand how much he cared about them, too.
Elvis, like all of us, lives on in the memories of those who love him.


Spotlight by Piers Beagley
-Copyright EIN August 16th 2017. Do Not reprint or republish without permission.

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