Elvis died thirty years ago today, on August 16, 1977. I was depressed for days. I loved his music but Elvis was more to my generation than just a great singer. He was the epitome of cool, the standard by which all others were to be judged. Life might be frightening, confusing and messy, but we always had the satisfaction that at least one guy knew all the answers: Elvis. He could have any girl he wanted, beat up any bully, solve any riddle.
I remember in 1957 my best friend Joe Antonucci and I, rubbing Dixie Peach Pomade into our hair and combing our pompadours as high as possible. In those days the best car was a 57 T-Bird, Coca-Cola came in thick green bottles, cheeseburgers were the ultimate meal and Elvis was King of music. Somewhere in the background Elvis would be singing “Don’t Be Cruel” on a 45 RPM record. To us, Elvis was God. If Elvis didn’t know it, it wasn’t worth knowing.
Elvis’s music accompanied life’s rhythms and he had a song to commemorate every important event in the life of a teenager. “Mean Woman Blues” told the truth about women, “Wear My Ring Around Your Neck” spoke to the dating and going-steady scene. Then there were the tender love songs, like “Love Me Tender,” “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?” and “Fools Rush In.”
I think my favorite Elvis’ song was his version of Kui Lee’s greatest song, “I’ll Remember You.” It is a touching, lilting song full of the longing and loss that only love can bring. Elvis sang it in his 1973 television special from Hawaii. Kui Lee had been a Hawaiian song writer who had died of cancer. Funds from Elvis’s special were to be used to build a Kui Lee Cancer wing to the Honolulu hospital.
Unfortunately, Elvis didn’t know everything. He was in actuality a country boy who couldn’t handle fame and fortune and the fast-paced life that it provided. His used drugs of the pill variety, but used sex and food as drugs as well. Too much fame, too fast can often destroy a life. It’s an interesting psychological phenomenon I may explore later on; Robert Ringer has written about it, mentioning Elvis in particular.
Anyway, I will always remember Elvis. As Kui Lee’s song went, “I’ll remember you…long after this endless summer has gone…”