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10 Rocking Reasons Elvis Presley was our American Hero - Heart of Gold - From Gospel to Heartbreaking Glory

Updated on August 18, 2014

Do you remember the day Elvis died?

I remember the day we lost a legend so well. America stood still. It was like a shadow crept over the world.

Life shaking events mark the passage of time in our lives. Many remember vividly where they were and exactly what they were doing at significant points in history.

How many of us remember the details of our experience when we learned of the horror of 9/11, the loss of JFK, the Challenger explosion, man walking on the moon?

I remember the day Elvis died like it just happened. The nation mourned for the first time I could remember. I was only ten.

Let's take a journey through rock and roll history. We will see at least ten reasons Elvis Presley was real American hero, more than a rock and roll legend and a King that will live on for eternity.

Image credit; by Poster Station.

Elvis Presley Poster Print, 24x36 Poster Print, 24x36
Elvis Presley Poster Print, 24x36 Poster Print, 24x36

It was the first time I ever saw my aunt cry.

We were all bawling.

It started like any other day.

I had been riding on the handle bars of my cousin's bike when she took a major spill. We both came in bloody, bruised and crying. Eating it on gravel tends to hurt.

My angel of an aunt cleaned us up, gave out kisses and parked us at the table for cookies.

Elvis was singing gospel in the background. He always was during the day when my uncle was at work. Peace in the Valley was so calming. Soon, all was good, for a while.

Every day my aunt cooked breakfast, sent my uncle off to work and turned on one of her favorite Elvis tapes featuring him singing about the Glory of God. No matter what was up for the day, if she was home and Uncle Billy wasn't, Elvis was crooning.

Pyramid Elvis 68 Comeback Special Wall Poster
Pyramid Elvis 68 Comeback Special Wall Poster

Uncle Billy wasn't an Elvis fan.

"It's not decent to dance like that!"

I can't count the number of of times I heard my uncle complaining that Elvis' style of movement on stage was less than decent behavior. He threw in a few more colorful adjectives but you get the idea.

Actually, he admired everything about the man but his stage prescience, shall we say. Elvis was known for gyrating hips accompanying his performances and my uncle had two daughters.

It mattered not one bit to any of us. As far as we were concerned, Elvis was family. He was born just down the road.

Actually, he was born in Tupello, but in backwoods Mississippi he was considered a local hero having come from the same state. He was a good old boy that came from nothing and became a King. He had made everyone proud in every way, except the dancing.

Elvis Presley Tupelo's Own Distressed Retro Vintage Tin Sign
Elvis Presley Tupelo's Own Distressed Retro Vintage Tin Sign

The radio ruined it.

It was so pleasant, myself, my aunt and my two cousins just sitting around munching on some still warm chocolate chips, giggling as Brenda was swooning talking about her boyfriend.

She was the oldest of us girls. We didn't have boyfriends yet, so we were duly impressed.

I remember it was hot and I could smell the grass and the honeysuckle with all the windows in the house open.

The dog, Rascal, kept making the rounds under the table hoping one of us girls would slip him a cookie. Usually we slipped him the liver we despised so much but today it was the good stuff.

He had just left a long trail of drool on my leg that I was trying to figure out how to wipe off without being too obvious when Brenda decided she wanted to hear something else.

Image credit; by Poster Revolution.

Breaking news - Elvis Presley died today.

That was the first sentence we heard when the tape player was turned off and the radio on. Brenda's hand hovered over the radio as if she had frozen.

I didn't really believe what I had heard and looked up to my aunt. Her eyes were filling with tears that silently fell as our pleasant Norman Rockwell moment shattered. Sadness flooded what had always been for me the happiest place.

That afternoon my uncle came home to the four of us still huddled around the table, hugging and crying. It was the only time I ever remember him not mentioning those famous hips in a derogatory fashion. He just wrapped his big arms around all of us.

The guy on the radio was still talking about Elvis.

At one time, I had an inclusive album box set.

Ah, the days of vinyl. Sadly, I've had way too many moves for that to have lasted. This, while not the same, is a really good collection on CD. The larger ones are getting harder to find and the original vinyl albums are highly sought after.

Young Man With The Big Beat
Young Man With The Big Beat

Containing over fifty hit singles from the King of rock and roll, this is one of the best definitive collections available.On top of the classic music from rock and roll, love ballads and blues type rhythms, you will find rare audio interviews with Elvis and The Colonel, his long time friend and business associate.For hours and hours of Elvis, this is the way to go. Including such mega hits as Don't be Cruel, Hound Dog, Heartbreak Hotel, Blue Suede Shoes and Lawdy, Miss Clawdy, it encapsulates the music of the early rock and roll era.

 
Elvis Presley Photo In The Army 2 Rock Star U.S. Military Photos 8x10
Elvis Presley Photo In The Army 2 Rock Star U.S. Military Photos 8x10

Elvis Presley was an American hero.

He didn't talk the talk, he walked the walk.

Elvis Aron Presley is the model of an American hero.

Coming from humble beginnings and rising to music greatness was just a part of this remarkable man.

The indisputable fact that he made rock and roll history is but one of the reasons he was crowned the King.

Unlike most monarchs, he earned that title. It was awarded by the legions of fans that loved him.

It wasn't just rock and roll, that gorgeous smile or those hypnotizing hips that endeared him to a nation. That won him the youth of the day.

It was what was in his heart, what he did, what he gave and what he stood for that earned him the love of everyone else.

Let's take a gander at the top ten reasons Elvis Presley was a real American hero.

Real heroes don't get enough play.

Image credit; by Perfect Posters and Pics.

Elvis Super Soft Fleece Blanket "Microphone" (Measures Approx. 50" x 60")
Elvis Super Soft Fleece Blanket "Microphone" (Measures Approx. 50" x 60")

First, Elvis always gave God the Glory.

Even when it wasn't the most popular thing to do.

Throughout his career and even before it took off, Elvis sang gospel.

It surely wasn't what made him the household name he became, but long after he made it he still clung to his faith based roots.

Elvis began his rise to fame in the fifties. Legions of kids flocked to fill seats in concerts and record halls just to be part of the Elvis experience.

It wasn't slow, peaceful, Glory to God in the highest kind of music that sold the tickets.

But yet, in so many concerts he slid in at least one. He always thanked God for his success and truly wanted God to bless America.

Image credit; by Northwest.

Many don't agree with me.

Some preachers have stated that because Elvis was a sinner, his profession of faith and devotions to gospel were just a money making gimmick. Let's face it, he was a sinner. To the best of my knowledge, so are we all. While he did party some and was known to be taking prescription drugs, no one is perfect.

To me, he did remarkably well with the pitfalls of super stardom when compared to the likes of some of today's popular figures. Yep, I'm thinking Beiber and Lohan here.

The best collection of gospel music by Elvis.

Elvis: Ultimate Gospel
Elvis: Ultimate Gospel

This has all of my aunt's favorite songs. I grew up to love heavy metal mostly, but I have to admit still tuning into Elvis crooning on occasion.Peace in the Valley is one of my personal favorites included in this collection but it has so many more moving melodies.Including over 25 songs spanning his career, listeners get treated to old hymns revisited as well as his more personal songs.

 

Gospel from the King of Rock and Roll.

Elvis did so many types of music well. What's your favorite?

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Elvis Presley "Army Uniform" Black/ White Poster - Rare New - Image Print Photo
Elvis Presley "Army Uniform" Black/ White Poster - Rare New - Image Print Photo

Secondly, he walked away from stardom to fight for his country.

During the fifties, Elvis did his civic duty and signed up for the draft. In 1958 he joined the service. It was a huge deal for the nation.

With some folks already starting to protest and others dodging the draft altogether, here was a guy who probably could have bought his way out. He surely could have gotten some medical excuse or something. But he didn't.

He stalled long enough to finish the film he was making at the time, hung up his cape and strapped on a pack just like all the other boys that stood up for America.

Just months later, he left briefly to see his mother right before she died. The next thing he knew he was in Germany fighting alongside his countrymen.

Service is always a sacrifice but how many have so much to loose?

To me, the fact that this young man, already halfway down the road to super stardom and riches most only dream of, willingly took up arms to defend his homeland screams hero in a big time kind of way. With his money, I have no doubt he could have got out of it.

After surviving his tour, upon his return home, he still thanked God and blessed America. He served with pride and distinction setting an example for the youth. Even the die hard critics of the new and dangerous rock and roll, the wild dancing and pulsating beats nodded their hats in respect for what he had done.

Many a grandmother across America fell in love with him the day he joined and would from that point on turn a blind eye to the movements on stage they so verbally disapproved of.

Image credit; by Poster Station.

In the Army now.

Scope out footage from back in the day. From enlistment through discharge, Elvis served with pride and his own unique style.

He could have kicked back and had the easy road even in the Army singing for the troops. It wasn't his style. He grabbed a gun and got at it. Did he have some added perks? Sure, ones that he paid for himself but he never one time shirked his duty.

In fact, he worked his tail off recording in Germany while actively serving.

Elvis - Tigerman Tin Sign 12.5"W x 16"H , 13x16
Elvis - Tigerman Tin Sign 12.5"W x 16"H , 13x16

Thirdly, Elvis Presley was a family man.

In the 60's and 70's, divorce among Hollywood types became more and more prevalent. Of course, today it's common place but back then, not so much.

Elvis stayed devoted to his wife and child his entire life. Once, he even rented out an entire theme park just so his daughter, Lisa Marie, could enjoy it with her parents without being mobbed.

Can you imagine how terrifying it must be for children of famous people to be rushed, surrounded by and fawned at by strangers every time they leave the house? It must horrible.

During an era where running around was the norm and infidelity of men laughed off, Elvis stayed true to his family.

Little known local Elvis trivia - Priscilla wasn't the first!

Years before Priscilla, Elvis fell in love with a local girl from Mississippi. He asked her to marry him after they had been dating some months and she turned him down. She didn't think he would really ever amount to anything. At the time, he was driving a truck waiting for the music to make it.

She became a teacher at my local junior high. I never was in her class but I did meet her once. She always carried pictures from when she and Elvis dated. She had four that she kept in her wallet right there beside the pictures of her own children. You could have knocked me over with a feather when I first saw them.

She was a chaperon on a field trip for a school club outing. My friend was in her class and told me she had dated Elvis.

When I laughed in disbelief, my buddy does a shout out on the bus and the next think I know this pretty, blonde teacher is parked by me in the seat showing pictures. I spent the rest of the day mulling over the idea that someone had been crazy enough to turn down Elvis. I don't even remember where we went I was so floored by the revelation.

Image credit; by Poster Revolution.

No one says it better than a man's wife. - Priscilla's own words about life with the king.

Elvis and Me: The True Story of the Love Between Priscilla Presley and the King of Rock N' Roll
Elvis and Me: The True Story of the Love Between Priscilla Presley and the King of Rock N' Roll

Read it in her own words.The heartbreak this woman went through is tremendous. Nothing tells a true story like someone that lived it.Meet the King through the eyes of the woman who made him her life. There exists no more intimate look into the life of an American legend.

 

Do you think taking care of one's family in our throw away society is an everyday hero quality?

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January 1988 American Karate Magazine Elvis Presley John Graden Cover
January 1988 American Karate Magazine Elvis Presley John Graden Cover

Fourth, Elvis worked for things with a dogged determination.

Being dirt poor in Mississippi in the 40's and 50's was thought of by most to be a one way ticket to a lifetime of poverty. Most local industry revolved around agriculture in some way. If one wasn't a land owner and didn't have the funds for college, choices were pretty narrow.

While pursuing the music fame some say he was destined to achieve, this young man worked blue collar type jobs and toured. Can you imagine? He would literally put in a forty plus hour work week before starting on his music work week. At times, he didn't even sleep but stayed up driving to get to the gig and still make it back in time for work.

Later in life, after he was a household name, he still worked constantly always singing, touring, making movies and working hard at his hobbies. The man even earned a black belt in karate. To me, his determination and hard work are a glowing example of what can be achieved through sheer force of will and hard work.

Image credit; by these sellers at Amazon.

Fifth - He never forgot where he came from.

So many that rise to greatness seem to forget everything else. Throughout his life, Elvis never forgot where he came from. He never forgot what it was like to be thought of as less than successful.

He may have left his hometown in Tupelo, but he didn't go far.

He built his famous home, Graceland, in Tennessee but it's only a few hours from Mississippi. He stayed in the south, spent his money there and always had a smile for everyone.

In small diners all over Mississippi and Tennessee, you can still find old black and white photographs of Elvis sitting in a booth at the establishments in question.

It seems he never turned down a request to be photographed by the owner, or with the owner. He knew it could help their businesses and was glad to do it.

In concerts and interviews throughout his career, he pays homage to his upbringing, his mother and the land that he came from.

The image is from the public domain.

How important is the past?

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ELVIS PRESLEY DONNA DOUGLAS FRANKIE AND JOHNNY LOBBY CARD ORIGINAL
ELVIS PRESLEY DONNA DOUGLAS FRANKIE AND JOHNNY LOBBY CARD ORIGINAL

Sixth, Elvis never said die.

Even when most said he should.

While he might have been known as the King of rock and roll, in Hollywood, Elvis was a joke. His movies never did well. The critics came out in droves. They were like sharks tearing into a meal.

Elvis could have so easily retreated after his first bomb at the box office. He could have stayed safely in his music monarchy with challenge from none. It wasn't his way.

He had decided to try acting and was going to make a go of it no matter how many tries it took. I have to admire the determination. How many of us quit the pursuit of our dreams when others laugh or insult our efforts? It's hard to keep going in the face of such.

Elvis showed his true nature every time he stepped back up to the plate, for you know each one had to be harder than the last.

While critics laughed and denigrated his efforts, girls of all ages cared not. Honestly, the acting wasn't that great but that face and those puppy dog eyes pulled us in like fish on hooks.

My personal favorite from the day was Frankie Loves Johnny. It's a musical number staged on a showboat. He seemed to almost just be playing himself in this role. The effortless quality is endearing as is the rest of the cast. It's cute and funny.

Image credit; by Movie Posters.

A truckload of Elvis movies all in one place.

Elvis 75th Anniversary DVD Collection (17 Films including Elvis on Tour / Jailhouse Rock / Viva Las Vegas / It Happened at the World's Fair and This Is Elvis)
Elvis 75th Anniversary DVD Collection (17 Films including Elvis on Tour / Jailhouse Rock / Viva Las Vegas / It Happened at the World's Fair and This Is Elvis)

This is the biggest collection of Elvis films in one place at a reasonable price I have ever seen.In this set, I love Spinout, Kissing Cousins and Girl Happy. All of these are Elvis having fun and singing along.The collection as a whole really shows how he changed over time.

 

Seventh, he was loyal and generous to a fault.

Elvis was known for generosity.

Many a home video and informal taping shows Elvis surrounded by friends. He often hired them and kept them around all his life.

If perusing the internet, one can find literally thousands of articles telling of tales of generous deeds and helping those he had no reason to. There are way more stories than I'm going to regale but let's skim the surface of one I found most interesting.

My favorite tells of an overweight teen aged boy that hopped the wall at Graceland to get an autograph. Elvis fans know he was very much into security and privacy by this point in his life. Instead of getting mad, filing charges, calling the law or even being a little suspicious, it's reported that he laughed.

Not only did the kid get his autographs, he got to hang out at home with a legend. You can read the full story here.

Elvis on a German stamp
Elvis on a German stamp

Eighth, Elvis didn't sell out.

Can you imagine the money he would have made if he had?

So many popular figures from TV, music and movies endorse products for money. It's not just products either, any cause just about can buy a name.

Elvis never went that way. He so could have. Impersonators all over the country shouted Elvis sounding slogans. Can you imagine how well it would have went over if done by the real deal? Not only would he not be bought, he went out of his way not to use his popularity to sway others.

Many a reporter asked him political type questions. He dodged with ease like a cat dancing with a mouse and had the same kind of sly smile on his face when doing it. This was a smart man. I'm sure he had his opinions but you see, he really believed in freedom, everyone's freedom to decide for themselves.

Ninth, he cared and it showed in the music he decided to make. - He didn't have to make anything. Being the King gives one a certain amount of freedom.

Have you ever heard the song, In the Ghetto?

In it, our handsome crooner sings a story really. It's a commentary on the social conditions and poverty that always manages to slide under the radar of the time. They say one of the earmarks of a super singer is the ability to tell a story, to reach in and grab someone's heart. Elvis did that every time he sang.

Don't take my word for it. Check it out.

Elvis Presley Biography...Elvis Exposed: The Amazing Life and Tragic Death of the King of Rock 'n Roll (Rock Stars Book 3) [Kindle Edition]
Elvis Presley Biography...Elvis Exposed: The Amazing Life and Tragic Death of the King of Rock 'n Roll (Rock Stars Book 3) [Kindle Edition]

Lastly, number ten, Elvis kept trying even when you could see it really hurt.

There was something more than the talent, the voice and the charisma that was Elvis. In some ways, his face was like glass. To me, having seen countless hours of footage, he was so often readable like a book. You could see the pain on his face, the shirking of the unpleasant, the human.

Early on, after his return from the war, it shows in the interviews he gave about his experience. You can watch it above. He never gets excited or speaks of anything one might relate to painful but look at his face when he talks about it being an adjustment, when he talks about what he has to do. The poor man was most likely half suffering from PTSD, yet he handled things with grace.

Later, towards the end, footage shows him looking so tired, so worn down. Heavily drugged at this point in his life, the toil fame was taking on him so obviously showed, yet he kept going.

He wasn't a perfect person. What real hero is? Is that not perhaps exactly what a hero should be? A real life person of integrity that does their best, always keeps going and trying for those they love and the principles they hold dear? Elvis, to me, gets a Vix pick for an American hero award. May God rest his soul.

Even from beyond, Elvis is still working hard.

In music, film and print, Elvis just keeps going.

I like to think he would have enjoyed knowing is family, his native and chosen community and his friends continued to benefit from his legacy long after he went beyond to wait for them. Of course, there are other blood sucking parasites involved in making money off him too but such is the nature of stardom.

Check out Graceland which is benefiting the Tennessee community its located in to this day. There's some other cool stuff that is still helping those kicking around on this rock too.

Touring the home of an American legend. - Graceland still stands in the south as proud as she ever was.

I have to give Priscilla Presley some serious props for how she has maintained and defended his estate.

Share your thoughts on an American icon, a legend and the King of rock and roll.

Do you like Elvis?

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    • Rhonda Lytle profile imageAUTHOR

      Rhonda Lytle 

      3 years ago from Deep in the heart of Dixie

      ~ annart - Thank you :). This was a lot of fun to write. I love Elvis. Always have. God bless and rock on!

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      3 years ago from SW England

      Great hub on Elvis! I liked his rock'n'roll the best. Lots of interesting stuff here with great illustrations. I enjoyed the read.

    • Rhonda Lytle profile imageAUTHOR

      Rhonda Lytle 

      4 years ago from Deep in the heart of Dixie

      @Heather Grayson: Thank you. Oh, we did too. I think just about every girl in the nation did back then. I was really blessed to have had such a loving family around. Thank you so much for your kind comment. God bless and most happy squidding!

    • Rhonda Lytle profile imageAUTHOR

      Rhonda Lytle 

      4 years ago from Deep in the heart of Dixie

      @Heather426: Thank you! :) That's so sweet of you.

    • Heather Grayson profile image

      Heather Corbett 

      4 years ago

      I love your lens! I remember watching Elvis and Me with my cousin all the time when we were little. We had such crushes on him. I enjoyed all the personal touches you included about your family.

    • Heather426 profile image

      Heather Burns 

      4 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

      @Rhonda Lytle: Your lens is now featured on my Elvis Presley Contributor page. http://www.heather426.squidoo.com/elvis-presley-co...

    • Rhonda Lytle profile imageAUTHOR

      Rhonda Lytle 

      4 years ago from Deep in the heart of Dixie

      @Heather426: Thank you. I can only imagine the stories you must have being related to the King of Rock and Roll. I can't wait to read your Elvis lens. Thank you so much for commenting here. You made my day :) God bless you.

    • Heather426 profile image

      Heather Burns 

      4 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

      I not only love Elvis Presley, he was my 3rd cousin and always a part of my family. I have a lens about him too in fact. This is a seriously great lens! Thank you for making it!

    • Rhonda Lytle profile imageAUTHOR

      Rhonda Lytle 

      4 years ago from Deep in the heart of Dixie

      @yayang0405 lm: Thank you @yayang0405 Blessings and most happy squidding for you.

    • Rhonda Lytle profile imageAUTHOR

      Rhonda Lytle 

      4 years ago from Deep in the heart of Dixie

      @PromptWriter: I used to love seeing him on the screen too. His passing was felt around the world. God bless :).

    • yayang0405 lm profile image

      yayang0405 lm 

      4 years ago

      Yes I do. Great lens. Thanks for sharing.

    • PromptWriter profile image

      Moe Wood 

      4 years ago from Eastern Ontario

      I was eight years old when he died but I still remember how sad I was. I used to love watching his movies with my aunt and a tenant that lived with her.

    • Rhonda Lytle profile imageAUTHOR

      Rhonda Lytle 

      4 years ago from Deep in the heart of Dixie

      @John Dyhouse: He really was and set a high standard many an artist could strive for today. Thanks bunches for the read and cool comment. God bless! :)

    • Milco profile image

      Milco 

      4 years ago

      I honestly thought there will be nothing new that i'll learn about Elvis from this post. I was wrong.

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 

      4 years ago from UK

      Elvis was my first rock and roll hero. He way THE rock and roll hero

    • Rhonda Lytle profile imageAUTHOR

      Rhonda Lytle 

      4 years ago from Deep in the heart of Dixie

      @Milco: :) Your comment made my day. As a former teacher, the idea that you learned something here delights me to no end. God bless and may you have a most awesome weekend!

    • Rhonda Lytle profile imageAUTHOR

      Rhonda Lytle 

      4 years ago from Deep in the heart of Dixie

      @esmonaco: Thank you so much @esmonaco. Your kind words are most appreciated. I have had Elvis music rolling around my head for a few days now, since I did this. Usually, when I get a song stuck in my head I don't like it. Now, it's all good with no commercials. God bless!

    • esmonaco profile image

      Eugene Samuel Monaco 

      4 years ago from Lakewood New York

      You have done a wonderful job describing an American Legend!! That is surley what Elvis was!! Thanks for a great read, and a trip down memoy lane. :)

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