August 16, 1977
If you are of a certain vintage that is a date you will remember. You will know where you were and what you were doing when you heard the unexpected news that Elvis Presley had passed away. It is just one of those moments when time stood still.
It stopped me in my tracks.
He was and has always been my musical and personal hero. Somehow, inexplicably, he became as cherished by me as any family member. I am not alone. Worldwide, there are millions of fans who feel this way and probably for equally as many reasons why.
As exceedingly talented as he was, with no musical training, I think I loved his heart as much as his voice. There are so many stories that tell you what kind of a person he was. There’s a couple that have always jumped out at me.
Apparently, most Christmas Eve’s, he went down to the Memphis police department to visit not only the officers on duty but the prisoners. He visited with each one and asked what he could do to ease the burden of their families at home. Then, he took action.
I loved the fact that front row at his concerts was saved for his fans not for whatever celebrity or dignitary wanted a perk. He also insisted ticket prices be kept low so his fans could afford to go. I saw him twice live in person in 1975 and 1977 and paid 10 dollars each time (Today’s stars should take note!). He paid for his own ticket for his “Aloha from Hawaii” concert in 1973 because it was for charity.
While many celebrities want to keep you at arm’s length, he opened his arms and said in effect “come closer”. That is why this week, throngs of fans are descending on Memphis, Tennessee to celebrate the life and career of Elvis Presley. If you ever want to see how one person can bring people of all faiths, nationalities and walks of life together in a positive way — look no further than Graceland mansion this week.
He sold a billion records and they are selling still. Do yourself a favour and dig into the music — not just the top 10 — try out some of the close to 800 songs he recorded. If you are so inclined, his gospel will put goosebumps on your goosebumps.
Check out Elvis concert video and you will see what charisma looks like.
Every musician owes him a debt and almost all acknowledge that.
I owe him the life I have enjoyed. He gave me my best friends, most fun adventures, my career and he set my life to music. He did it all without the advantage of YouTube or Twitter or Facebook or even a cordless mic.
He did it with a million dollar smile and a voice that echoes still.