Thursday, August 16, 2007

30 Years Since We Lost 'The King': Elvis Presley

Elvis Aaron Presley (January 8, 1935 – August 16, 1977), was an American singer, musician and actor. He is a cultural icon, often known simply as Elvis; also "The King of Rock 'n' Roll", or simply "The King".

Throughout his career, he set records for concert attendance, television ratings and recordings sales. He is one of the best-selling and most influential artists in the history of popular music. His death, at the age of 42, shocked his fans worldwide.

In November 1948, the Presleys moved to Memphis, allegedly because Vernon — as well as needing work — had to escape the law for transporting "bootlegger" liquor. In 1949, they lived at Lauderdale Courts — a public housing development — in one of Memphis, Tennessee's poorer sections. Presley practiced guitar playing in the basement laundry room and also played in a five-piece band with other tenants.

On December 20, 1957, Presley received his army draft notice. Hal Wallis and Paramount Pictures had already spent $350,000 on Presley's latest film King Creole and they feared the consequences of suspending or canceling the project. The Memphis Draft Board granted Presley a deferment so the movie could be finished. On March 24, 1958, he was finally inducted and completed basic training at Fort Hood, Texas, before being posted to Friedberg, Germany.

Priscilla (née Beaulieu) had stayed with Presley during the 1960s (they had first met in Germany, when she was only fourteen). They married on May 1, 1967 in Las Vegas. A daughter, Lisa Marie, was born exactly nine months later.

Divorcing in 1973, Presley became increasingly isolated and overweight, with prescription drugs — apparently prescribed with little question — taking their toll on his health, mood and his stage act. As time progressed, Presley became even more obese — he would diet excessively and then binge eat.

Presley's final performance was in Indianapolis, IN at the Market Square Arena, (June 26, 1977). August 17, 1977, was to be the start of another tour. However, at "Graceland" the day before on August 16, 1977, Presley was found on the floor of his bathroom by fiancée, Ginger Alden. According to the medical investigator, Presley had "stumbled or crawled several feet before he died". He was officially pronounced dead from a heart attack reportedly brought on by prescription medicine abuse at 3:30 p.m. at the Baptist Memorial Hospital. The BioScience Laboratories report indicated the detection of fourteen drugs in Elvis' system, ten in significant quantity.

His funeral was a national media event. Hundreds of thousands of fans, the press and celebrities lined the streets hoping to see the open casket in "Graceland" or to witness the funeral. Among the mourners were Ann-Margret (who had remained close to Presley) and his ex-wife. U.S. President Jimmy Carter issued a statement.

Presley was buried at Forest Hill Cemetery, Memphis, next to his mother. After an attempt to steal the body, his — and his mother's — remains were reburied at Graceland in Memphis, TN in the Meditation Gardens.

When Presley died, his finances were in sad shape. Led by ex-wife Priscilla Presley, the estate formed Elvis Presley Enterprises, opened Graceland to the public in 1982 and solidified the legal rights to make money on Elvis' name and image. Last year, Graceland took in $27 million in revenue, and the overall Elvis business brings in more than $40 million a year. That made him the second-highest grossing dead celebrity in 2006, behind only Nirvana 's Kurt Cobain, according to Forbes magazine.

Elvis remains an icon and a legend today, 30 years after his untimely death.

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