Today marks the thirtieth anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley. Two days from now, serendipitously, I'll be in Las Vegas to give proper tribute.
Elvis loomed large over my childhood, right up there with Jimmy Carter and Pope John Paul II. He defined cool for me till I was old enough to mock his bloated later years; by that time I was in college, where I and some friends took every opportunity to tear apart the mythology and mysticism of the King of Rock and Roll. Still, a bowl of grits purchased on Elvis Presley Boulevard in Memphis is one of my most cherished college memories.
That's the nature of our idols, isn't it? We revere them until it suits us to revile them, and all along they continue to exercise their transcendent power over us.
I'm now five years younger than Elvis was when he died; maybe that's why my cynical self-promotion at Elvis' expense has given way to today's expression of sentimental solidarity. All day I've been listening to my CD of Elvis' thirty #1 hits, and regardless of what you think of the man and his music, he certainly did own the industry in his day.
And yet he remained a person in spite of all the hoopla. He had weird eating habits and a probable drug problem and horrible interior decorating skills. And he had a sense of humor, as evidenced by this piece of audio tape--a performance of "Are You Lonesome Tonight" at the International Hotel in Las Vegas. Enjoy.