Wednesday, August 15, 2012

E is for Elvis


Elvis Aaron Presley.  Like most Americans, he was born into this world with three names.  Unlike the masses, he would ultimately need only one to be recognized worldwide. 

I am not quite old enough to be truly considered part of the Elvis generation, but I grew up with him just the same.  My mom was a fan, so Elvis was always part of my life.  I had his records (remember records?) and watched his movies.  Because I am just a little too young to remember most of Elvis mania, by the time I was watching his films, they were already “old”, and I’d see them on TV on Saturday afternoons.  It seems there was a never-ending loop in those days: Elvis, Martin and Lewis, Andy Hardy; I watched them all.  My favorites of his films were always Follow That Dream and Live a Little Love a Little.  Relive part of the Elvis movie magic in these clips:


The King was part of our holidays, too.  Every year, while trimming our Christmas tree, we’d put on the holiday records for our soundtrack.  And as far back as I can remember, Presley had the spot of honor each year, with Elvis’ Christmas Album starting us off.  “Blue Christmas” was the opening track, so it was always the first Christmas song I heard each year.  For a while, I continued this tradition at my own home, but Brian is not much of an Elvis fan, and he truly dislikes “Blue Christmas” in particular, so eventually we moved to just turning on the holiday satellite station for our tree trimming festivities.  Even so, it’s not truly Christmas for me until the first time I hear “Blue Christmas” play.

Because my mom was such a huge fan, I was lucky enough to be able to see Elvis perform live when he came to town on what would become his final concert tour.  I remember my mother asking us if we were truly interested in going, because the tickets were expensive so she didn’t want us to go if we didn’t really want to.  I was a kid, so I don’t know what “expensive” was back then—probably twenty five dollars or something!—but of course I wanted to go.  To this day I’m not sure if it was because it was Elvis, or because I just wanted to go to a concert, but I’d like to think that I had the wisdom to recognize an amazing opportunity when it was presented. 

So, in March of 1977, my mom, dad, sister, and I all sat and watched as the ultimate entertainer enthralled thousands of people.  Sure, he was a little heavier than he’d been back in his youth—who isn’t?  And maybe he’d lost a step or two from his gyrations, but you’d never really know it if you weren’t looking for it.  The man could still sing, and put on a show that left the crowd wanting more, and I think that’s all you can ask of a performer. 

Again, maybe because of my age, but I’ll always have a soft spot for some of Elvis’ later songs, the ones that seemed to somehow belong more to me because I can remember when they were new.  “Burning Love”, “Moody Blue”, “The Wonder of You”—I think most folks probably wouldn’t list those as among his best, and maybe they aren’t, but they’ll always have a place in my heart. 

A couple of my other perennial favorites, though, that usually do make the cut as some of his better work are “Suspicious Minds” and “An American Trilogy”.  Enjoy. 



Tomorrow, August 16, will mark 35 years since the passing of this musical giant.  I was just a day away from turning fourteen, and the most important thing in the world to me was that I was going to have a Star Trek cake for my birthday.  I still remember sitting in the kitchen with my mom and sister when we heard the news.  Mama was making something—maybe fixing dinner or a snack for our summer afternoon.  Tanya and I were sitting on the kitchen barstools talking to her, and the little B&W TV was sitting on the countertop, playing in the background.  My mother cried when she heard the news, something I didn’t fully understand at the time.  Sure, he was a great entertainer, and I knew she really liked him, but it’s not like she knew him or anything.  Many years later as I shed tears over the death of Gene Roddenberry, and later still, Michael Jackson, I would understand what it is like to lose a piece of your youth in the passing of a celebrity that you have never met.  There were other celebrities my mom enjoyed, entertainers of whom I’d say she was a fan.  But I don’t remember her ever being as moved by the loss of any other performer before or since.  I think it wasn’t until Elvis died that I truly understood how important he was to her.  I think it was longer still before I recognized his importance to me.

So RIP Elvis Aaron Presley, but long live Elvis, the King of Rock and Roll.

Are you a fan of Elvis?  What are some of your favorite songs?

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