In his last concert performances he was a bloated image of himself. Bedeviled by inheriting his own mother's early heart problems, he abused prescription drugs to get him through those last concerts, where he left nothing on the table...giving everything that he had left to give to those still adoring audiences.
But, maybe those last days told us more about Elvis Presley than the young handsome man with the crooked smile and swiveling hips ever would.
Those last days showed us how much he loved his music..and his fans....loved them so much that even his illnesses and his bloat couldn't stop him from standing in front of a microphone and singing of love and angst....even with his faulty heart.
His movies were cheesy...suitable only for teens like me who didn't care if the plots were paper thin..as long as Elvis was up there on the screen. And there were millions like me....Elvis still remains the only screen star in Hollywood history who never had a movie that lost money.
The story of Elvis is an American story unlike any other....a poor boy from Tupelo, Mississippi whose fame was so immense, who was adulated so greatly, that the simple young man couldn't cope with it. One tries to imagine not being able to even walk out your front door without being mobbed by fans and filmed and photographed at every turn. Such exposure would be hard on anyone, but especially hard for one whose young life had been filled with loneliness and poverty.
But, what connected so many millions to Elvis was his ability to transcend fear and confusion, and belt out a rock a billy song, or croon a love song with such sincerity that you knew it was coming from deep within him.
Of the many Elvis songs, the ones most touching, the ones most soulful, the ones most revealing of his early love of Black soul and "Nashville Country" are those early Sun Sessions when a young man was singing out "look at me"..."hear me"...and we looked, and we listened.
Happy Birthday Elvis. (January 8th, 1935)