Thursday, August 16, 2007

His Life As An American Idol

"Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain't goin' away."

-Elvis Presley

Can you believe it's been 30 years since the death of Elvis Presley? I remember the day he died. I guess that day has become one of those days, where pretty much everyone remembers where they were. Like the day Kennedy was shot, or the day Princess Diana was killed in a car accident, and of course, this nation's darkest day... 9/11. I turned 15 years old the summer he died, and I really wasn't a fan. In fact, I really didn't get the whole Elvis following at all. I loved had loved The Beatles, and the Rolling Stones, and Kiss, but Elvis? Nope, the whole phenomenon was lost on me. Now my sister, well, she was a fan start to finish. She is ten years older then I am, so she was in high school, when girls were going half crazy over those hip gyrations,bedroom eyes, and smooth vocals he did so well. He, lets face it, seduced an entire generation.

My sister came by that day, to play one of her Elvis albums on my portable record player. It was a fairly new album, that her soon to be husband had bought her as a gift. I gave her the record player, and went back to watching my soap opera "One Life To Live," paying little or no attention to the music she was enjoying so much, however, one song really sounded good to me, so I asked her to play it again. "Burning Love." It moved a different from his other tunes, and had a real rock feel to it, as opposed to most of his songs, which had more of a country sound. I never cared for country music, so it was really nice to be able to really appreciate a different side of him as a change of pace. She and I listened to the record a few times, then put it away in it's sleeve. We ate and giggled our way through lunch that day, because after years and years of trying to get me to admit I liked Elvis Presley, I had finally relented. I finally heard a song by him that I really liked.

"When things go wrong, don't go with them"

-Elvis Presley

A couple hours later, as we were gabbing with each other about her upcoming wedding plans, we heard the Special Report on TV. Elvis had been found dead. There weren't many details initially, just his age,and the fact that he had died at Graceland. It was a few days before most of the details came out, and years before the real truth was known. I remember all the coverage at the time, and how it seemed so disrespectful. The tributes were meant in love, but there were photos of him in his casket, plastered all over the tabloids for years after his death. To me it all seemed a little grotesque. It still seems so sad to me that he died alone, in his bathroom, and in life. Something went so wrong for him, that he wasn't even close to that young, hip, sexy guy who made all the girls fall in love with him by uttering a simple, "Thank you, thank you very much." I can't help but have some compassion for him still, all these years later. No matter how he got on the lost road he was on when he died, it seems like no one could reach him in time to save him, if they even tried at all.

There are some young stars today, who are pretty much headed down the same road that Elvis, Jimi, and Sister Janice traveled, just to name a few. The tabloids make jokes, late night talk show hosts make jokes, heck, I suppose we all make jokes.But is it truly funny? I don't know... I sometimes wonder, who will be next? Who will die young? I can't bring myself to laugh at Paris Hilton, or Nicole Richie anymore. Lindsey Lohan seems to be in the most trouble, but Britney brings her children along for the ride she's on. I wish there was someone who could put out their hand, or wave a magic wand, and heal whatever is hurting these girls so badly. I wish they had stronger support in their lives, support money can't buy. Truth is, as long as they have an audience to play to... who laugh along with the jokes they play out... they will have a reason to continue to drift away. Sometimes I think continuing to be a fan to certain stars, is just another form of "enabling." There is a strange codependency in it somehow. Sigh.

I think I will just look back to that day, in August of 1977. I liked Elvis that day. The above YouTube clip is of my favorite song by The King, "Burning Love." Enjoy!

"Elvis Presley's death deprives our country of a part of itself. He was unique, irreplaceable. More than 20 years ago, he burst upon the scene with an impact that was unprecedented and will probably never be equaled. His music and his personality, fusing the styles of white country and black rhythm and blues, permanently changed the face of American popular culture. His following was immense. And he was a symbol to people the world over of the vitality, rebelliousness and good humor of this country."

- President Jimmy Carter, 1977


1 comment:

Karen Funk Blocher said...

For a non-Elvis fan, you've written a very good tribute here. I still remember my seventh grade music teacher trying to explain Elvis to us in the early 1970s, and hearing about his death on my mom's car radio six or seven years later.