Friday, January 08, 2010

The King turns 75


My goodness gracious. Is Elvis really 75?

I say "is" because it doesn't feel like the man ever left us. Not really. He's played a major part in my life and he passed before I was born.

Such was his talent.

I feel like, though, that the average person has missed it. Say the name Elvis Presley and most people either think of a young punk swiveling his hips or an aging and overweight guy in a jumpsuit. Both miss the mark.

To me, Elvis's true talent lay in the fact that he sang from his gut. You can hear it on later songs like "Hurt" and "You Gave Me A Mountain," in which the ol' boy just "reared back and sang," like we used to say.

He had a range like you wouldn't believe. Later live versions of "How Great Thou Art" can give you chills. And he could rock his butt off. If you don't believe me, track down a copy of either the 1968 "Comeback" Special or the film "That's the Way It Is." Or find a live version of "Suspicious Minds."

And yet I feel sad when I think about him, alone in his Memphis mansion in those final years, a decent guy overcome by fame, taken advantage of by his stooges, laughed at by the nattering nabobs.

But most of us, so-called Middle Americans who maybe saw or wanted to see a bit of ourselves in him, took him for what he was -- a poor Southern boy who made good, who still said, "yes, sir" and "no, ma'am" even though he was the most famous superstar on the planet.

I like to think he's still out there, singing somewhere in the lonely night. He's been gone for almost 33 years, but I don't think the King will never die.

Pardon me while I put on my blue suede shoes and touch down in the land of the Delta Blues.

Happy birthday, Elvis.

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