Profile of a Performer: Elvis Presley– The Comeback King

In remembrance of the anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death, we will finish his profile this week. We’ve already discussed the younger years and his return from the Army.

Elvis TV Special
Elvis TV Special

After a decade in films, Elvis Presley, was considered a joke by both fans and critics.

Now, it was time for some damage control.

Colonel Parker made arrangements for Elvis to transition back to television.  The special, Elvis, was aired on December 3, 1968.  {We now know it as the ’68 Comeback Special}.  This was his first live performance since 1961.  The soundtrack album broke the Top 10 on the charts.  Elvis felt he was out of prison and finally had a say in choosing his own songs.  He told a friend, “it’s the greatest thing I’ve ever done in my life.  I give you my word I will never sing a song I don’t believe in.”

Elvis was eager to return to live performances and a month long stint in Las Vegas was scheduled.  The night of his first performance he was greeted with a standing ovation when he appeared on stage.  At a press conference after the show, a journalist referred to him as “The King.”  Elvis humbly remarked that Fats Domino {who was present} was the “real king of rock and roll.”

A five year contract to perform in Las Vegas for six months each year was soon negotiated.

Elvis in his blue jumpsuit
Elvis in his blue jumpsuit

By early 1970, Elvis was performing in his trademark jumpsuit.  Bill Belew designed the various jumpsuit variations for him when Elvis asked.

On December 21, 1970 he had his famous meeting with President Richard Nixon.  Early the next year, the city of Memphis, where Elvis lived at his home Graceland,

Elvis was well known for spreading out the cape on his jumpsuit on certain songs
Elvis was well known for spreading out the cape on his jumpsuit on certain songs

named a section of Highway 51 South, “Elvis Presley Boulevard.” In 1971, he released three studio albums and received the Lifetime Achievement Award by The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

His success continued into 1972, when two live specials were recorded and released, along with his gospel album “He Touched

Me.”  While the year was successful professionally, his personal life took a hit with the separation and divorce from his wife Priscilla.  The constant touring kept both of them apart leading to indiscretions on both sides.

ElvisHis January 1973 concert, Aloha from Hawaii, was the first global concert satellite broadcast and reached millions.  The accompanying album released the next month would be the last U.S. #1 pop album he released during his lifetime.

The following years saw intensive concerts scheduled, but they began to take a toil and he received prescription drugs to help him keep up the schedule.  He was hospitalized in late October 1973.   One friend recounted suggesting he take a year off to rest, but was told “it’ll be all right. Don’t you worry about it.”

He won a third Grammy Award for his single, “How Great Thou Art.”  All three of his Grammy’s were for gospel recordings.

Elvis in his final years
Elvis in his final years

Over the next three years, he released six albums but none had a presence on the pop charts.  Five of the albums did enter the top 5 on the country charts.

By early 1977, Elvis was severely overweight and struggled to get through an “abbreviated concert.”   His speech and behavior on stage also showed there was an issue with slurred words and the ability to stand.  His fans were becoming “increasingly disappointed.”

His last single {in his lifetime} was released on June 6 and his last performance was on June 26 in Indianapolis.  By this time he suffered from a variety of health issues.

Elvis died at home in Memphis, TN at his beloved Graceland
Elvis died at home in Memphis, TN at his beloved Graceland

Three former bodyguards, whom were fired the year before, released a book on August 1 titled “Elvis: What Happened?”   The book is said to have “devastated Elvis” due to the expose of his drug misuse.

He was scheduled to fly out to begin another tour on August 16, 1977.   However, his girlfriend found him earlier in the day unresponsive on the bathroom floor.  He was unable to be revived and pronounced dead at Baptist Memorial Hospital in Memphis that afternoon.

Procession for the funeral of Elvis Presley
Procession for the funeral of Elvis Presley

His funeral was held at Graceland on August 18.  Roughly 80,000 people are believed to have lined the processional route to the cemetery where he was buried beside his mother.  In October 1977 {following an attempt to steal his body}, Elvis and his mother were reburied at Graceland.

At the time of his death, President Jimmy Carter stated he “permanently changed the face of American popular culture.”

After his death more singles were released, he was inducted into four music hall of fames and Graceland was opened to the public.

His father, Vernon, died in 1979.   Pricilla and daughter, Lisa Marie, received the bulk of his estate and control his image and likeness.

Vernon at Elvis grave
Vernon at Elvis grave

Elvis Presley became a legend.  His voice, image and name are recognizable around the world.  He has inspired millions through the years through his music.  He changed the beat on the music of his day and influenced the culture that became the 1960s.

His influence has continued and grown as he has touched other musicians that have built upon his techniques and stylings.

What is your favorite Elvis Presley song?  Do you have a fond memory of him?

 

 

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