Elvis Presley at the White House in 1970 (Photo via Wikimedia Commons / U.S. Archives)
Elvis Presley may have "left the building" but his enduring legend and spirit have not departed. Even 36 years after his death, at 42 in 1977, Elvis is ever present in many ways.
There are Elvis festivals that take place all over the world, look-alikes and wannabes performing in out of the way bars and on Las Vegas stages. And if you look for Elvis books on amazon.com, you will find there are more than 2,800 of them.
Even on an off-year anniversary like this one, the 36th, Graceland – his Memphis home-turned-tourist-attraction – is hosting a week-long (through Aug. 17) extravaganza for tens of thousands paying tribute to The King in a variety of wondrous ways:
• an impersonator/tribute performer contest
• a Hound Dog Tour of Memphis
• a reception at the Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Center
• a Viva Las Vegas movie and dance party
• Graceland Trivia Tour
• Gospel Celebration and Memorial Mass for the Repose of the Soul of Elvis Presley • A 5K run starting and ending at the gates of Graceland
• Bingo at Elvis Presley’s Heartbreak Hotel (yes, really, named after Presley’s first hit song in 1956)
There is even a kid’s karaoke contest which brings to mind one of Elvis’s youngest fans and impersonators – the singing sensation and heartthrob Bruno Mars at 4 years old. Not to be missed.
When Elvis, the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, was discovered unconscious on his bathroom floor, the news rocked the world much as it did decades later when The King’s one-time son-in-law, Prince of Pop Michael Jackson, was found in a similar state on June 25, 2009. And even though 32 years separate those deaths, both stars are still shining brightly.
In his New York Times obituary, the late Molly Ivins wrote that Presley’s "throaty baritone and blatant sexuality redefined popular music…Like Frank Sinatra in the decade before and the Beatles a decade later, Mr. Presley was more than a singer – he was a phenomenon, with 45 gold records that sold more than one million copies each…At his death, Mr. Presley had been an indelible part of the nation's musical consciousness for 20 years."
He still is.
Just a quick look at the performers who have covered the songs – ballads, gospel, rock – either written or recorded by Elvis bears that out: from Billy Joel and Paul McCartney on "All Shook Up;" ZZ Top on "Viva Las Vegas;" Fine Young Cannibals on "Suspicious Minds;" Barry Manilow, the Righteous Brothers and Todd Duncan on "Unchained Melody;" and Stray Cats on "Blue Suede Shoes" (some of this sampling gleaned from an Ed Fisher blog post from August 2010). Another video worth taking a look at is Nicolas Cage singing "Love Me Tender" to Laura Dern in the final scene of the movie, Wild at Heart.
Born in a two-room house in Tupelo, Miss., Presley rolled out his life in most unpredictable ways going from singing gospel with his parents at religious revivals to causing young women to scream and cry and faint at Elvis sightings.
Apparently, the adulation, the fortune, the fame and the talent wore out the superstar mentally and physically, but it appears the rest of us will never tire of the man and his music.
Susan Soper is the author of ObitKit®, A Guide to Celebrating Your Life. A lifelong journalist, she has written for Newsday and CNN, and was Features Editor at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where she launched a series called "Living with Grief."