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Friday, May 6, 2016

The world won't forget Elvis

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Much of the country was indescribably blue 30 years ago tomorrow.

On Aug. 16, 1977, Elvis Presley, the so-called King of Rock and Roll, breathed his last on a seat which wasn't exactly a throne.

"That's someone you never forget," many are probably thinking.

For quite a few women, Presley was obviously the ultimate U.S. male. For men, Presley's rags to riches story was one of those unbelievable occurrences that come once in a blue moon.

Presley's wish came true. The guitar man (although his was really more of a stage prop) became the big boss man of American music.

Sometimes you realize it's now or never. Presley had guts enough to seize the moment and follow that dream.

And Elvis near single-handedly changed American music, leaving the old guard paralyzed. Rhythm and blues artists are the real fathers of rock, but it took Presley to force the non-rock artists which dominated mid-1950s white music to surrender despite such hateful antics as forcing him to perform next to a hound dog. They capitulated, and the party began.

At one point, within younger age groups Presley may as well have been king of the whole wide world. Older generations thought of his music as jailhouse rock and resented his fame and fortune. And, of course, there was celebrity gossip. Everyone wanted to know the name of his latest flame.

But Presley's dream life degenerated into a mess of blues as music styles changed and his popularity waned. His flaming star fell to earth.

Col. Tom Parker, Presley's manager, was playing for keeps. The 25 percent of profits Presley signed away years earlier made his manager wealthy. The manipulation grew to be too much. They should have gone separate ways, but Presley just couldn't make the switch.

Ultimately, Presley was obviously a lonely man. He was trying to get to you in his own style, but was hindered in his later career by Parker's ridiculous song choices. When you're creative in your own way and being held back, that's when your heartaches begin.

Presley, who was still a poor boy down deep in some ways, had to be hurt by the 1960s critics, Many may as well have had a wooden heart as they urged America to stay away from Presley movies.

He was no fool. He finally tired of being on the same level as a puppet on a string and gained enough control in the late 1960s to symbolically rip it up and start all over.

From a career that had gone way down and may have been in the ghetto, musically speaking, Presley mounted a fabulous comeback.

But his personal life became more bizarre. Suspicious minds spread gossip and rumors.

Presley didn't exactly seem all shook up, but you can't help but wonder.

In many ways being Elvis must have been like living in a heartbreak hotel, being surrounded by security and hardly able to appear in public without mobs forming.

As far as Presley's future if he'd lived longer, in a way I really don't want to know but in another way I just can't help believing Presley could have once again reinvented himself.

Don't think of Elvis as being diminished because of his late-career excesses and bloat. Don't be cruel. Look him up on the Internet or YouTube (where the handlers of his career are bringing it back visually) and enjoy some of his music again for old time's sake.

For those of us raised on rock, Presley changed our lives. And, despite Parker's actions, in many respects Presley could truly say he did it "my way."

This column contains 46 Elvis Presley song titles. Whether you can find them all or not, David Melson welcomes comments at dmelson@t-g.com .

David Melson
On the Loose