Wednesday, August 16, 2006

I.M. Elvis, For Tomorrow



Since I probably won't have time to do it tomorrow, here's a reminder that Elvis Presley died 29 years ago tomorrow. Does it matter anymore, given that culture has moved on so comprehensively since 1977? To be honest, I don't care. It matters to me. When I was growing up Elvis' power and influence were beyond anything that a kid would understand today. He was mythical in his own lifetime, the most admired and desired man in the world. And his music had transformed (violently at first) contemporary culture.

Though heroes have come and gone and musical fashions have changed beyond recognition, I am still so completely under Elvis' spell that when I watch "That's The Way It Is" (as I did barely a week ago), I gape and I shiver even now at his brilliance. Elvis dying and Muhammad Ali losing the World Heavyweight Championship to Leon Spinks in Vegas the following year may well have been the two events that ended my childhood: what could be the same if the two giants of my young imagination had been felled in such an ignoble fashion?

7 comments:

Janey... said...

That hits the proverbial nail on the head...
It's hard to believe it's been 29 years...I remember exactly as if it were yesteryear...when the "Special News Report" interrupted the regularly scheduled program to announce Elvis' death...
It was surreal...but even beyond that...there was no room in my brain for digesting the concept that such an icon, died under such tragic circumstances...
It reminded me of people recalling the exact moment that they heard President Kennedy had been assassinated(a year or so before our time)...
Indeed...the harsh realization of mortality sends a childhood packing...

Bruce Hodder said...

I can't believe it's been 29 years either.
Have you ever known the death of a celebrity to feel so momentous? When Elvis died it was like the plates shifted.

Janey... said...

It definitely changed the world...
The next one that was gutting was John Lennon...it was another one that left me speechless...

Bruce Hodder said...

Lennon. Yes. I was in an anti-hippie phase then, and when my mother told me he'd been shot I said, "Chalk one up for the music lovers." Thinking about that has mortified me ever since. Two years later I was the biggest hippie who ever lived and venerated the Beatles.

The only death that really gave me a wrench comparable to Elvis' was that of Johnny Cash. I played the San Quentin album over and over again that day just to hear him talk (and swear).
Dark subjects for an early Wednesday morning...

Janey... said...

Damn...it is Wednesday already...
The difference between Elvis/Lennon and Johnny Cash...was that Johnny was so ready after losing June...but with the other two...a totally different sense of tragedy...

Regardless...all three moved mountains in their short lives...

King said...

I take a lot of grief for often mentioning Elvis-- people don't realize how huge he really was.
More important, he had more pure talent than any other rock n' roller-- this evidenced best by some of his lesser known recordings. He did the best version of "Yesterday" ever-- his voice designed for that. His version of "Unchained Melody," recorded live at a concert shortly before his death, is amazing. (He accompanies himself on piano.)
Or listen to some of his gospel stuff, such as "Run On"-- here you can see the roots of rock.
He was rock's iconic figure.

Bruce Hodder said...

I agree with you completely, King. He doesn't have the cache of cool that some artists have, though I don't know why, but I think his best work stands beside anybody's--even my big heroes like Dylan.

I LOVE his version of "Unchained Melody".It's an outstanding vocal performance, really brave and naked--reminiscent,actually,of some of the singing on Johnny Cash's last album, at least in its unvarnished honesty. The footage of him performing it is profoundly moving.