"Elvis Presley is the greatest cultural force in the 20th century."

(Leonard Bernstein)


"If you're an Elvis fan, no explanation is necessary; If you're not an Elvis fan, no explanation is possible."

(George Klein)


"For a dead man, Elvis Presley is awfully noisy."

(Professor Gilbert B. Rodman)


"History has him as this good old country boy, Elvis is about as country as Bono!"

(Jerry Schilling)






Elvis’ 70th birthday: what if?

Seventy years old is a fine age to reach. When Elvis was born in 1935 the average life expectancy for men was only 60 years. Elvis’ grandmother Octavia died in that same year and Elvis was, of course, heartbroken when his mother Gladys died aged 46. Both of Elvis’ uncles Travis & Johnny Smith, who worked as gate guards at Graceland, also died in their forties. Elvis said to friends that they would never see him as an old man.

Had Elvis lived would he still be performing? Perhaps, like his colleagues, he would be recording big-selling duets albums. You can imagine Elvis and Willie Nelson (seventy in 2003) touching fan’s emotions with their duet of ‘Always on My Mind’. Perhaps Elvis could have finally recorded two of his favourites - ‘I Walk the Line’ & ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ - with his old friend Johnny Cash (70 in 2002). With a new manager and The Colonel (70 in 1979) and publishers Hill & Range (Julian Aberbach 70 in 1979) at last out of the way Elvis could have finally got hold of some really creative material.

With a new RCA/BMG contract, requiring only one new CD release every 2 years, Elvis could also have delivered some quality recordings. In 1991 Elvis would have celebrated the 20th anniversary of his original ‘Elvis Country’ LP with an astounding follow-up, performing his favourite new country songs. The new ‘Country album’ called ‘Heaven Help My Heart’ includes performances with Wynona Judd on the title track - and an old score is settled by a surprise collaboration with “rival” Garth Brooks.

The radio favourite from the CD is Elvis’ duet with k.d.lang on Roy Orbison’s ‘Blue Bayou’. This was Elvis’ idea in remembrance of Roy Orbison who had sadly died in 1988 aged 52, (he would have been 70 in 2006). In 1993 the CD ‘The Lord Will Make a Way – Elvis Gospel’ is also a big seller, although not a great chart success. This time Elvis was moved to record another Gospel CD by the death of composer Thomas A. Dorsey, aged 94, in January 1993. A favourite of Elvis’, Dorsey’s compositions include ‘Peace in The Valley’ and ‘Take My Hand, Precious Lord.’

For this new CD Elvis reunites with The Jordanaires and The Imperials for the first time since 1966 to record some of his favourite gospel songs. Highlights are Elvis’ versions of Dorsey’s ‘The Lord Will Make a Way’ and the rockin’ ‘It's a Highway to Heaven’. 1996 would have been another creative bench-mark for Elvis with the 40th anniversary celebration of the release of Heartbreak Hotel.

The new CD called ‘Heartbreak Hotel – Elvis Blues’ features 20 astounding classic Blues tracks. The hit of the album is the title track but this time it is performed in a totally new dirty-blues style with Elvis being joined by B.B King (70 in 1995) on guitar. Standout track is B.B King’s ‘Everyday I Have the Blues’.

The “performance of the decade” is the surprise concert in Memphis when Elvis joins B.B. King on stage at his newly opened Blues Club on Beale Street performing ten of the best songs from the CD. However the highlight of the night is when both Elvis and B.B King are totally surprised by the amazingly sprightly Rufus Thomas (70 in 1987) jumping on stage to join them. The three Memphis friends jam together on ‘Bear Cat/Hound Dog’ before stunning the crowd with a rousing ‘Walkin’ the Dog’ as the encore. Like all great Elvis jams the event, unbelievably, is not recorded on tape!

While the planned studio recordings with Jerry Lee Lewis (70 in Sept 2005) don’t materialise because Jerry Lee never shows up, BMG do manage to record the ‘40th Anniversary’ of the Million Dollar Quartet. Filmed for a TV special Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee, Carl Perkins (died aged 65 in 1998) and Elvis all gather at Sam Phillip’s Sun Studios on December 4th 1996 for an emotional reunion.

While sadly lacking the spark of the original session the sound of these old rockers playing music together just for fun is very touching experience. Released in 1997 the best track is their version of ‘Save the Last Dance for Me.’ However Elvis’ crowning glory for the new millennium is his 2004 ‘50th Anniversary of Rock ‘n’ Roll’ CD. Elvis’ enthusiastic recordings silence all his critics and provide him with yet another record-breaking number 1 single.

From out of nowhere Elvis’ version of the INXS stadium shaker ‘I Need You Tonight’ becomes his fortieth number 1 single! (The Chemical Brothers’ dance-remix is also a worldwide #1 smash.) While the only ‘oldie’ Elvis revamps for the CD is ‘When It Rains, It Really Pours’ in the memory of the recently deceased Sam Phillips (died in 2003 aged 80), the album does feature collaborations with Chuck Berry (70 in 1996) & Bo Diddley (70 in 1998).

In Elvis’ personal life during the 1990s he is shocked by Lisa Marie’s interest in Michael Jackson - but luckily manages to talk her out of marriage. Elvis is much happier when actor Nic Cage becomes her love interest. Elvis was always an admirer of Nic Cage’s acting ever since he saw Cage’s take on ‘The King’ in the fabulous David Lynch movie ‘Wild at Heart’.

In 2005 Elvis is working on an eagerly awaited new CD with Lisa Marie. BMG has announced the working title as ‘Elvis & Lisa - Don’t Cry Daddy.’ Hopefully the often bootlegged duet finally gets to be professionally recorded in the studio. But sadly, I’m just dreaming sweet dreams. Elvis burned twice as bright as any other star and, leaving us in 1977, he lived far too short a life. Happy Birthday Elvis wherever you are.

(Spotlight Tribute, Source: EIN)












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Elvis Odd Spot (updated 16 Dec 2004)