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The Day The Music Died
- Originally published August 16, 2011
There have been so many artists over the course of time that have left an enormously influential impact on the world, but there is only one who has left such an impact on my own life. He is none other than the King himself, Elvis Presley.
Going back to 1995 when I was only seven years old. I wish I could remember just exactly what it was that set it off in me. I was raised on the classics, and listened to the local oldies station. I like to credit the first time I heard "Suspicious Minds" on the radio.Though I really don't remember that moment, I know for a fact that it is that very song that turned me into the devoted fan I am today. To this day, I can't hear it come on the radio without my heart flip-flopping.
Fast forward two years, to 1997. It was the 20th anniversary of his passing. I was nine years old. The movie channels had a lineup full of Elvis films to play on rotation. VH1 was playing Aloha and the Comeback Special all weekend. I was beyond excited. My fondest memory from that anniversary was at my brother's watching Aloha! From Hawaii. I was transfixed. This man was so incredibly beautiful and his voice.....wow. His voice did everything to me. When he came to sing "An American Trilogy" I was hypnotized. There's a line where he sings, "Now hush little baby, don't you cry...you know your daddy's bound to die..." I remember sobbing. It had hit me. This man who I had grown to enamor and develop a school girl crush on was really dead. The only way I could live with him, was to live through his performances. To this day, that song still makes me shudder. For the 25th anniversary of his death, the San Diego County Fair's theme was Elvis. I created a shirt to wear and on the back it had a line from that very song that read: His truth is marching on.
Elvis A(a)ron Presley was born on January 8, 1935 to Vernon and Gladys Presley in Tupelo, Mississippi. Presley was one of two babies born to the young couple. He was the only surviving twin, as his brother Jesse died at birth. Early on, Presley had a strong fondness for the blues and it was in 1954, at the age of nineteen, when he recorded his first single for Sun Records, "That's All Right Mama". By the age of twenty-two, he was the star of his first motion picture film, Love Me Tender. Presley would continue making films and recording music for the next two years til 1959, when he was drafted into the U.S. Army. He would return to the states by a warm welcome, largely in due part to Frank Sinatra who helped host the Welcome Home Elvis! television special. It was in the same year that Elvis would have his last number one single in "It's Now or Never" until 1969. For the next six years he would continue making God awful films. On May 1st, 1967 he would marry and exactly nine months to the date of his marriage he would welcome his first child, a daughter, in to the world. In the same year that Lisa Marie was born, Elvis made his comeback. In December 1968, NBC would air the Comeback Special, with ratings that flew through the roof. It was an enormous success much to Elvis' surprise. It would also produce an inspiring song that was much needed in the wake of the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr and Robert Kennedy.
In 1969, Presley recorded and released "Suspicious Minds" off of the From Elvis in Memphis album. It would become his first number one single since "It's Now or Never". With the success of the Comeback Special and "Suspicious Minds", Elvis signed on to play a slew of shows in Las Vegas. His career was finally off again. Over the next few years, Elvis would go on to make four more films and begin touring nationwide. The pickup in his career caused turmoil in his marriage and he was divorced in 1973. It was after his divorce that his health began to deteriorate and the age of forty-two, in the early morning of August 16,1977, Elvis Presley passed away at Graceland, his home in Memphis, Tennessee. His nine year old daughter, was staying with him at the time.
This year as we mark the 34th anniversary of the day the music died, I remember what it was that made me fall in love with this man. He was by far one of the most, if not the best, entertainers of our time. For someone who was not around when he was, he remains a powerful, larger than life figure. Someone who as Bruce Springsteen once said "it was like he came along and whispered some dream in everybody's ear, and somehow we all dreamed it." He had a talent that was undoubtedly a blessing. A talent that even the most shallow of people can notice. It was afterall, Elvis himself who said, "Never judge a man unless you walked in that man's shoes."