Posted on August 25, 2017 at 04:43:12 PM
I was only twelve years old when I heard the news that Elvis had died of a "Heart Attack" at his home in "Graceland." Even though the jokes were abounding for two years or so from the likes of Johnny Carson on the "Tonight Show" about how fat and out of touch Elvis had gotten; he was still an icon unlike any other. I didn't understand much about his conditon at twelve but came to appreciate him more as I got older about people who were hangers on or who were just along for the ride when things were going well.
For those who are younger who are reading this blog, you must remember that media in those days was print news, three networks, and radio stations. News trickled out much slower in those days and information could be contolled much easier. Nonetheless, Elvis was said to have died of a "Heart Attack." Most people were only first starting to find out about his feel good doctors, addictions, and the seclusion that he placed himself into unless he was doing a show. Even then he was merely shuttled by his bodyguards to and from the dressing room; and it was two of those bodyguards; Red and Sonny West; longtime friends, school mates, "Memphis Mafia" members, and recently fired by Elvis and his father Vernon, who were now dishing out the information in a new book called "Elvis What Happened."
Well, what happened simply was that Elvis starting losing control of his demons, and as the character "Dexter" used to say played by Michael C. Hall, his "Dark Passenger" began to take more and more of him as the years went on. Elvis was raised on a "Southern Diet" which means alot of fried foods. His cook used to say that he loved butter so much that when he ate biscuits, he would roll up his sleeves and the butter would literally trickle in globs down his arms. Elvis always struggled with his weight. Secondly, Elvis began taking drugs in the Army to stay awake and so began his love of them. The habit was under control in the movie years but once the movie contract was done in 1968, the spiral began.
He would win the battle off and on until after his most famous concert ever "Elvis Aloha From Hawaii" in 1973. For that show, which was the first, thats right first, ever show broadcast throughout the world and seen by a "Billion" people, he got into shape and stayed off drugs for over six weeks. His inner circle was estatic; but then the very next morning when they showed up at his hotel suite to go to the "Pearl Harbor Memorial;" of which Elvis has donated alot of money, Elvis was bombed out of his head, sweating profusely with a towel wrapped around his neck, and slurring his words; they knew that he had returned to his demons. Little did they know that this concert was Elvis defining moment and that this would be the start of a downhill consistant coast for Elvis to the point where he eventually became a caricature of himself on stage until the time of his death on August 16, 1977. If you ever want to see a heartbreaking performance just watch his "Are You Lonsome Tonight" performance on his last concert to see how far he had really fallen. Still though, his fans loved him; and I sense that one of the reasons was they saw in him what I see in him; a "Man" and not an icon that they were able to identify with more as much of the audience which probably had been following him from the beginning, like him, had gotten older, gained weight, and were out of their prime.
Seeing him up there in the end showed a man with guts who actually didn't want to perform these shows as much as he was doing but did it because he felt a responsibility to those he had on his payroll because they had families etc. Remember that his records were not selling well anymore and he hadn't scored a number 1 record since his best selling record of all time "Suspicious Minds" in 1969. That was the thing with Elvis and why so many people loved him who worked for him. He was loyal to a fault; and even at his worst, could make people comfortable. People talk about "Southern Charm", well Elvis had that in spades. He was one of those rare people who men and women adored. Men wanted to be him and women admired him for not only his looks but for the tremendous devotion and respect that he had for his parents.
People say the Beatles were better but remember it took four of them to do what he did by himself; and they worshipped him as well, so what does that say? In fact when they were invited to his house; Paul said that they were all afraid to speak to him until he said "You all invented the language right; so talk."
Elvis continues to inspire people worldwide and to end this blog I just want to list a few things which set him apart from the pack just in case people are not sure of his impact on the world.