August 16th, 1956
Elvis Presley arrived on board an American Airlines flight to Los Angeles International airport in order to start work on his first film role, The Reno Brothers soon to be renamed 'Love Me Tender'.
Even in these early days - his May 1956 release 'I Want You, I Need You, I Love You' had only charted at #3 in the US singles charts - Elvis was met by fans carrying placards saying "We Want Elvis!' and 'Elvis For President'.
Elvis was only 21 years old and at the start of his incredible trajectory to become the world's biggest superstar.
Little did Elvis know that he was already halfway through his all too-short life on earth.
Elvis' latest record Hound Dog / Don't Be Cruel had only just been released and was yet to confirm his status as being the most important rock 'n' roll innovator and recording artist of the 1950s.
Elvis had also not yet discovered whether he could even perform as a noteworthy movie actor - nor had he appeared on the first Ed Sullivan TV show which would also help prove his the importance as a new entertainment superstar.
In the same month Elvis would tell fans, "Since that first night things have happened so fast that I really don't know. Yes, I've been lucky. You know something? I just feel sometimes like it's all a dream, like I'll rub my eyes and wake up and it will be over. I hope not. I hope it never happens. I hope it never ends"
Sadly, just 21 years later, it would all end far too soon.
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
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, George Michael, James Brown 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 42 years ago, as the Elvis Country Fan Club noted at this year's Graceland vigil ..
... It has been 42 years since Elvis has walked this earth. As it was only 42 short years that Elvis accomplished more than any other entertainer. And it keeps right on a hurtin' every minute of the day ... for every year and for every year to come..
While the mainstream media sometimes finds this dedication to Elvis mindboggling - already fans see that ELVIS is once again in the mainstream press as star film director Baz Luhrmann is in pre-production on a 2012 highly-anticipated Elvis Presley biopic - including
Oscar winner Tom Hanks in the cast portraying Col Parker.
42 years after Elvis' death hardly a day still goes by without some news item, magazine article, new movie or advertisement that still features Elvis as a reference point.
Elvis touched the soul of every true fan and that hot August night in 1977 the fans returned the love.
Fans all over the world have to acknowledge the 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.
Elvis’ best friends, Jerry Schilling, Linda Thompson, George Klein, Alan Fortas, Joe Esposito, Marty Lacker and Larry Geller reminisce about his life.
JERRY SCHILLING - "Losing Elvis was the greatest loss I've ever suffered"
Once in Graceland there was a moment when I found myself alone in the living room with Elvis where he sat by himself playing the piano.
The powerful, beautiful music had drawn me up from my room in the basement, but as I got closer, I thought maybe I was intruding on something personal. Elvis was lost in his singing and playing, and I didn't want to interrupt his private moment. But he happened to look up and see me and with just a hint of a smile on his face he gave me the faintest of nods to let me know it was OK to stay and listen. He turned back to the keyboard and continued singing one of his favourites, "You'll Never walk Alone".
Elvis was my friend, and I received more from him than from any other person I've known. I can only hope that I gave something of substance back to him. Losing him was the greatest loss I've ever suffered. But it also has occurred to me that those words I once heard Elvis sing in the Graceland music room have turned out to be absolutely true.
With everything he gave me, and with all the love, friends, memories, and music in my life - I don't ever walk alone.
LINDA THOMPSON - "I am saddened to this day that he left us far too early"
After Elvis died I sat on the landing of the stairs leading up to his bedroom with Billy Smith, Billy’s wife, Jo, and another of Elvis’ cousins, Patsy Gamble, as his body lay in state at the base of the stairs for public viewing. The four of us, who understood his heart and his humor, sat for hours, laughing and crying hysterically, and remembering the man we’d all loved so very deeply. We talked about all the good times, riding on the golf carts around Graceland, and Elvis’ kindness and generosity, and his uniquely irreverent sense of humor.
We will never know what might have been if Elvis had been given the gift of a longer life. I am saddened to this day that he left us far too early. I, like millions of others, would just be happy to know he was still a living presence in our world, no matter what he might now be doing, and no matter who he might choose to be with.
Within the first week after Elvis passed away, I started dreaming about him. Not every night, but often enough that, strange as this may sound, I came to feel like there was a plane of consciousness on which we could visit. As if I were suspended between life and death when asleep, in a different realm, and there we could be together. And while I realize now that it was probably all in my imagination, I’m grateful that I had those moments with him, even just in my dreams. I think it was what I needed at the time in order to say my final goodbye.
GEORGE KLEIN - "Elvis was the most generous man I've ever known"
Elvis was the most talented man I've ever known, he was the most generous man I've ever known, and he was the smartest man I've ever known.
But on a personal level, what I loved most about Elvis Presley was the amazing quality of his friendship. I've never felt as cared for, supported, and accepted as I did with him, and I've never felt as devoted to anyone as I was to him. I only hope he had some sense of how much I loved him as a friend, and how much I appreciated everything he ever did for me.
There'll never be another Elvis, and there'll never be another person like him in my life. I just consider myself a lucky, lucky man to be able to say that Elvis Presley was a friend of mine.
I don't think I'll ever really say goodbye to Elvis. But, just like at the end of all my radio shows, I can sign off and send us back to what lives on—his music:
"Ladies and gentlemen, the sun never sets on a legend, and there'll always be a TCB on the Lisa Marie. The United States Of America has had many presidents but only one King, and here he is to sing. . ."
ALAN FORTAS - "Elvis proved that to be poor and Southern did not mean you didn't count"
In a few short years almost single-handedly Elvis changed the attitudes of the world. Not only about sexuality and "race music," but about class barriers, taste, and Southerners themselves. To those who never knew or who had forgotten, Elvis proved that to be poor and Southern did not mean you didn't count.
When he died, country music, once the voice of the Southern working class and the illiterate, was well on its way to mass acceptance all around the world. The surprise was that his death was a catharsis not just for the poor or the working class of the South, but also for the middle class of the East, the West, the North.
Elvis was simply an immensely talented, intensely troubled man. No saint. No satyr. Elvis's life was a dream with no way out but the end. Yet, for me, it will never be over. Like everybody else, I still miss him.
But for better or worse, I also have a part of Elvis inside of me. Everybody wants a touch of Elvis. And nobody wants to let go.
LAMAR FIKE - "The way Elvis was doing everything. You just can’t keep going like that."
Elvis never thought of himself as a pioneer. He didn’t understand the term. He just happened to be there. Elvis used to say, “There’s room for everybody in this business” - and there was. He used to tell artists that. He’d say, “Hey, don’t worry about me. Worry about yourself.”
Everybody out there today that’s in rock ‘n’ roll owes their career to Elvis. He was a nova exploding off of the old star and becoming thousands of times brighter than the original, and the brightness lights up everything around. He was a child of destiny, regardless of whether he wanted it or not.
I was with Elvis for 23 years. I talked to him the day before he died while we were setting up his next tour. I don’t think Elvis had any inkling he was going to die. His mother’s side of the family was so short-lived that, you know, the indications were all there. The way he was doing everything. You just can’t keep going like that. Nobody can keep going like that.
Then all of a sudden, I lost him. It was just devastating. You don’t get over that easily.
When I lost Elvis, it was as hard as losing my Father. It was devastating. I still do things today that come from being with Elvis. I unconsciously do stuff. Somebody likes one of my watches, I’ll take it off and give it to them.
I still miss Elvis. My god, I miss him every day of my life. Forty years on it’s something that goes on every day. I still dream of Elvis every day of my life since he passed. The intensity of 23 years with somebody is pretty strong.
JOE ESPOSITO - "Elvis was the most extraordinary ordinary man"
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.
"Oh-my-God!" 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.
Not a day goes by without mention of his name. Over 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.
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"
Elvis had 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 2019. Do Not reprint or republish without permission.
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