Thursday, August 16, 2012

#298 Remembering the King

Today marks the 35th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death at age 42. I remember the day he died – I was in a car headed to my grandparent’s house and heard it on the radio. I knew who Elvis was but didn’t know much about him or his music. I was eight.

My friend Kelli lived the next street over and was a little more educated about Elvis. Her mom loved him. She had lots of records in their basement and she had been to several concerts, including (I think) his last one at Market Square Arena. She was devastated when he died.

This past April, Julie and I decided to stop in Memphis on the drive home from New Orleans. Neither of us had been to Graceland. We spent a couple hours touring the house, grounds, car museum and planes.

Being there made me want to know more about Elvis, so when I got home I started reading two books by Peter Guralnick, “Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley” and “Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley.” Both books are very good, but I’ll warn you – they are big and the print is small. The second book gets a bit repetitive, but that’s how Elvis lived. Movie. Record songs. Concert. Another movie. Record more songs. Another concert. I think I started reading in May and finally finished in July. Granted – I only read about half an hour at night and on my lunch hour. I’ll repeat – the books are very good and I felt like I got a pretty good look into Elvis’ life.

I came away from reading these books feeling both happiness and sadness for Elvis and his family. What an extraordinary person with incredible talent and compassion. But there was a sad undercurrent to his life. He didn’t trust many people. He lived in somewhat of a bubble with his entourage. He felt like he needed to buy people things to let them know he cared about them and to keep them as friends. He grew to be a man but deep down he was still very much a boy. He never got over the loss of his mother. I do feel that he truly loved the Lord and that was his one saving grace.

Whether you love him or don’t give a flip, you can’t deny that he is one of the greatest entertainers ever. Part of me wishes I could have seen him shake his hips just once in concert.

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