Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Elvis Presley: 40 Years Later

2017 marks the 40th anniversary of the "King of Rock 'n' Roll", Elvis Presley.  My #1 musical artist whose death in 1977 is still a vivid memory.  Here's where I was on August 16, 1977: watching Star Wars for the 2nd time.  I caught an early show near the place where my Mom worked.  Once the movie was over we got in the car to go home.  So, I put on the AM Top 40 radio station and they are playing an Elvis song.  By this time, I'm just becoming a Billboard magazine subscriber and an avid listener of Casey Kasem's American Top 40.  So, I knew Elvis had a song around the Top 40 at that time called "Way Down".  But it wasn't a big hit.  And I knew my local Top 40 stations never played it.  But the song they were playing was an old one from the '50's.  Very odd.  I changed the station to the other channel: same thing.  Something wasn't right.  Then I searched for a news channel, and there was the announcement:  Elvis Presley was dead.  My Mom and I were stunned.  Can't be true.  When we got home I put the TV on looking for some kind of channel that had more info.  This is 1977.   There's no CNN, no all-news channels, so the pickings are slim.  Eventually, I came across a channel that confirmed the news.

At this point in 1977, Elvis Presley was an afterthought to most people.  He was still touring, making records.  But the records were just average, the tours marred by cancellations and bad reviews, even though they still sold-out.  A few months before he died, three of Elvis' former bodyguards released a scandalous book called Elvis: What Happened?  I remember seeing the book and articles about it on newsstands.  But this was Elvis.  Sure he was overweight.  But a drug addict?  Not possible.  The book was widely dismissed by his hardcore fans at the time, but most of what was in it has proven true.  At the time the bodyguards wanted the book to wake up Elvis.  To bring back the '68 Comeback King.  Maybe it would have worked.  Elvis died just a month after it came out.

What Elvis' death did to me was make me a devoted fan.  That may sound like a strange statement.  But in 1977 I was only 13 years old.  Just beginning to dig deeper into the history of Rock and Roll.  When he died, the only Elvis records I heard were the ones my Dad owned.  And he had quite a few.

And now in 2017, I have all his official studio, soundtrack and live albums.  A bunch of career-spanning box sets, lots of greatest hits titles.  Oh, and can't forget all the Elvis books I've read.  And I buy whatever reissues RCA continues to feed the Elvis faithful.

The generation that first grew up on Elvis has gotten older.  And while Graceland still does robust business (I've been there a few times), I'm always afraid that the music Elvis put out will fade away.  I could be wrong.  I'm grateful that Sirius still has their Elvis channel which I listen to often.

As long as I'm around Elvis Presley will never disappear.   Anything that keeps his memory alive is alright with me.  And I'll always be there to remind newer generations of how important he was.
Add to Technorati Favorites