The American Dream – Elvis did it HIS way!

I love Elvis Presley and his music. I have loved him since I was a small child.  I was only four when he died, but remember my mother and others very disturbed by his early demise. Though I don’t think I fully understood death, I do remember my father sitting me down in our leather rocking chair saying, “If you don’t stop crying, Daddy will have to take away your Elvis records.”  Yep. That is a true story.

I grew up listening to all kinds of music. Back in the 1970s, we had a huge TV that had a great record player and I remember on weekends hearing the tunes of Buddy Holly, Hank Williams, Elvis, Roy Orbison, the Beach Boys and other favorite groups of my parents. Out of all these singers, Elvis has always been supreme in my book. It might have been because if it was a rainy Saturday or Sunday, we would watch the infamous Elvis movies.  And as most girls and women across America, I thought Elvis was cute. Very cute.  I didn’t care about the ridiculous story lines, silly songs and terrible acting, I just loved watching him.  (If you want to see a few GOOD Elvis movies that show he really could have had a decent acting career, check out “Jailhouse Rock,” “King Creole,” “Love Me Tender” and “Charro.”  The others are just fun to watch…if you can get through them!

Even today, I love Elvis for many reasons.  One, he was an original. I cannot stand copy-cat artists.  His music did not sound like any other person’s at the time.  Second, he listened to his heart. He loved the black music he had heard in church growing up and enjoyed black artists around Memphis.  And that’s what he incorporated into his music. He was one of the first white artists to perform “black” songs and received severe and cruel criticism for it.  Many people thought the voice on the radio was a black man and called stations asking why they were playing “Negro music”  on a white station. Third, Elvis never lost his manners. Everyone who ever met Elvis said how polite and kind he was and finally, Elvis is the true example of the American Dream. He few up dirt poor and turned into a millionaire.  He suffered quite a bit as a child, living in different housing projects, losing his father to a stint in jail for writing bad checks, and never knowing if there was enough money. I remember reading one account from Careless Love, describing how for most of his childhood, Elvis and his parents were in a room and had to share a bathroom with other tenants.  Later in life, he would own multiple homes and still shared things (money, jewelry, cars), but certainly not a bathroom.

Speaking of bathrooms, I think it’s a disgrace that people joke about the fact that he died in the bathroom. What many do not realize is that he was not in the process of going to the bathroom. He suffered from insomnia most of his life and went into the large bathroom to read so he would not keep his girlfriend up.  There was a reading chair in the bathroom and that is what he collapsed in front of, not the royal throne.

As for being called “The King,” Elvis was quoted numerous times saying he did not like that name because “only God is king. I am just a man.”  God played a big role in Elvis’s life.  If you have never listened to Elvis’s gospel music, you are missing some of the sweetest sounds on earth. The only Grammy Awards he ever won (despite 30 number one hits) was for his gospel recordings.  Check out “How Great Thou Art” or “Peace in the Valley” if you have never heard him sing them. They show his heart and soul and unbelievable powerful and melodic voice.   Elvis often wondered why God blessed him with so much. He did not understand how complete strangers absolutely loved him and tried to be a good person because he felt that God had chosen him for something special.

As you can see, I am a huge fan.  I believe as he got older, his voice got stronger and more powerful.  It’s a huge shame that he became addicted to drugs and got heavy later in his life.  But I think it’s even more of a shame that some people remember a heavy man who died on a toilet instead of the amazing contributions he made to music and the influence he had on other amazing artists such as John Lennon, Billy Joel, Madonna, etc. Plus, Elvis was thin for most of his life.  It was only the last three years that he put weight on.

Here is a picture of a tattoo of his signature that I treated myself to on my 30th birthday. It’s on my ankle, so it’s a little faded, but it’s my tribute to him.

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Elvis would have been 78 years old today.  However, the young and vibrant image of him, his incredible voice, his wide range of music (the only person EVER to be inducted into the Rock and Roll, Gospel and Country Music Halls of Fame) has had a lasting impression on people all over the world. And he used to fear that he would be forgotten…no way, Elvis. You will always live on in our hearts and our ears!

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