Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Death of the Memphis Monarch

Danny Mirror : I Remember Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley : Unchained Melody

On August 16, 1977 Elvis Presley, the king of rock'n' roll, died. The stunning news swept around the world where he was worshipped by millions of fans.

I was a 13 year old boy riding with a family friend who was negotiating the streets of San Francisco when we heard about the king's death on the radio. She had to pull over. Her eyes filling with tears. 

He had so many fans and yet , after turning "forty and fat", Elvis distanced himself from almost everyone in his life. He died alone in a bathroom in his 23-room mansion, 14-acre estate in Memphis, Tennessee, called Graceland, and is buried there along with his parents and grandmother. 

I visited on winter day in 1995 when I stopped in Memphis on the way to a new job in Colorado. There are messages from fans on the stone wall outside Graceland. His gravesite adorned with flowers year round and I even caught a photo of a man who still dresses like Elvis.

By then I was enough of a fan to know what I liked about Elvis : his comeback albums Elvis Is Back! (1961) and From Elvis in Memphis (1969); his gospel album His Hand in Mine (1960) and everything that makes up The Sun Sessions. At his best, Elvis was an incredibly inventive singer, charming, good looking, sexy, and soulful. 

Of course he was not at his best in 1977. On stage he was sweating profusely, his prematurely white hair dyed shoe polish black, carrying around several pounds of waste that he couldn't defecate without pain, That's why he died on the toilet in the middle of the night. 

On the tenth anniversary of Elvis's death , I wandered the streets of Charleston, South Carolina asking people for their memories. "He loved his mama," one lady said. "Elvis loved his mama".


  1. Enjoyed this and from the perspective of an actual American! He came to a sad end but thankfully we fans develop a selective memory. He certainly did "love his mama" and everything changed for him after her death.

  2. It's interesting how the death of Elvis is one of those "I remember where I was when I heard he died" memories for Gen X (I was 10 the day he died, so basically the same age as you/author). I liked Elvis though I was more a Beatles/Stevie Wonder fan, but the adults around us just really loved and looked up to him. I also was in a car when I heard Elvis died-a car packed with kids being driven by my foster dad up Stone Canyon Rd in Los Angeles when the DJ on the car radio broke into what had been an uninterrupted string of about 3 or 4 Elvis songs saying "I'm so sorry-I've been crying so hard, I haven't been able to talk." My dad yelled "hey kids, shut up, I think someone died!" and sure enough, the DJ went on to announce the death of Elvis just as we pulled into the driveway of our house. My dad slammed on the brakes and said 'oh my God, it can't be. He wasn't old." But it was true. Now that I am old enough to understand the details of his death, I find it incredibly sad that a man everyone said was a genuinely nice human being and a man who, in his prime, had been physically beautiful and self-possessed had to die in such an undignified, painful, lonely way.