Today, August 16, 2008 it has been 31 years since Elvis Presley passed away. Therefor we open today's news with an original news report on passing of Elvis Presley by Washington Post staff writers Larry Rohter and Tom Zito from August 17, 1977, illustrated with several clips:
Rock Idol Elvis Presley Dies at 42
Elvis Presley, who revolutionized American popular music with his earthy singing style and became a hero to two generations of rock 'n' roll fans, died yesterday in Memphis, Tenn. He was 42.
Shelby County Medical Examiner Dr. Jerry Francisco said last night an autopsy indicated Presley died of "cardiac arrhythmia," which he described as a "severely irregular heartbeat" and "just another name for a form of heart attack." He said the three-hour autopsy uncovered no sign of any other diseases -- though Presley had in recent years been treated at Baptist Memorial Hospital for hypertension, pneumonia and an enlarged colon -- and there was no sign of any drug abuse.
Presley’s body was discovered at 2:30 p.m. Memphis time by his road manager, Jerry Esposito, in a bathroom in the singer’s multimillion-dollar Graceland Mansion. He was rushed to the Baptist Memorial, where he was met by his personal physician, Dr. George C. Nichopoulos, and pronounced dead.
Dr. Willis Madrey, a specialist in liver disease at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, said yesterday that two years ago Presley’s doctors sent him a sample of Presley’s liver for analysis. "It showed no significant abnormalities." Madrey said, "nothing of any help at all in evaluation."
"I had understood he was having some gastrointestinal problems his doctors were trying to evaluate," Madrey said. But "well over a year ago," Madrey added, he saw one of Presley’s doctors and was told "he seemed fine" and "the only problem he had medically was obesity."
Ginger Alden reportedly Presley’s fiancee and members of his staff were all at the mansion yesterday at the time the singer was found unconscious, Nichopoulos said.
In 1956, when Presley came crackling out of every radio and speaker in the land, young Americans notions about independence -- from parents, from religion, from the values of the time -- were forming. Elvis became "The King" of rock 'n' roll, but also of the emerging youth culture. He was a young, hip-thrusting, white singing music that was essentially black. Part of his attraction was that the '50s teenagers viewed him as epitomizing everything they thought their parents feared they would become -- cocky, slick, brash, tough, black-leatherclad, motorcycle straddling, stiletto-shoed.
Their hunches of their parents' fears were well confirmed after Presley’s appearance on a 1956 Ed Sullivan show. While millions of teenagers screamed in unison across the land, a Catholic priest in New York scorned Sullivan for this "moral injury" and condemned Presley for his "voodoo of defiance and frustration."
Overall, he sold more than 500 million records worldwide and made 33 films. He was a millionaire many times over and lived in a style that reflected it: ensconced in his Graceland Mansion behind locked gates, like the reclusive characters in "Citizen Kane," handing out jewels and Cadillacs to friends and even casual acquaintances.
No American performer had so broad an impact on culture around the world. In 1958, Communists blamed the influence of Presley for a riot in East Berlin as youths threatened to kill a border guard. In 1964, Presley received a write-in vote for President. A Memphis businessman who got in a fistfight with the singer had to close his shop because fans picketed the place.
His career began its ascent at virtually the same time of James Dean, another young star with a tough image, and Presley felt a sense of kinship with Dean.
Presley "knew I was a friend of Jimmy’s," said Nicholas Ray, director of Dean’s second film, "Rebel Without a Cause," so he got down on his knees before me and began to recite whole pages from the script. Elvis must have seen "Rebel" a dozen times by then and remembered every one of Jimmy’s lines.
Presley’s songs, particularly the early ones, expressed succinctly the rising rebellion of young people beginning to break from the Cold War doldrums of the Eisenhower era: "Have you heard the news/There’s good rockin’ tonight:" "You can do what you want/but lay off my blue suede shoes:" "Everybody in the whole cell block/Dancin’ to the jail house rock:" "Don’t be cruel/To a heart that’s true:" "Baby, let’s play house."
Born in Tupelo, Miss., on Jan. 8, 1935 -- his twin brother, Jesse Garon, died at birth -- Elvis Presley was 18 when he walked into a Memphis studio and paid $4 to record "My Happiness" and "That’s When Your Heartaches Begin" as a present for his mother.
Raised in a religious atmosphere, Presley had begun his singing career by performing hymns and gospel tunes with his parents, Vernon and Gladys, at concerts and state fairs. His parents bought him his first guitar at age 11, and he remained close to them even after acquiring a rebellious image -- his feelings for his mother, who died at age 46 of a heart attack were known to be especially strong.
Sam Phillips, owner of the studio, intrigued by the rough, soulful quality of the young truck driver’s voice, invited him back to practice with some local musicians. A few months later Phillips’ Sam Records released Presley’s version of the blues tune "That’s All Right," backed by the country song "Blue Moon of Kentucky," and the singer’s career was launched.
The synthesis of black blues and white country music made Presley a unique artist from the start and Memphis was quick to appreciate that. Presley’s recording went to the top of the local charts almost immediately, eventually selling 20,000 copies, and Presley was invited to appear on the Louisiana Hayride country show and at the Grand Ole Opry.
At the Opry, however, the first of the many controversies that were to engulf Presley almost caused him to give up his career. Told by the talent booker there that he was no good, Presley broke into tears and left his performing costume in a filling station.
He recovered quickly, though, and went on to record a whole string of hits for Sun Records, which sold his contract for $40,000 -- then a record -- to RCA in 1955. His first record for RCA was "Heartbreak Hotel," which early in 1956 made him a nationwide sensation.
Months earlier, in November 1955, Col. Tom Parker, an established country music agent, had concluded a management agreement with Presley. Parker was instrumental in arranging Presley’s switch from Sun to RCA and was to remain Presley’s manager to the end, shrewdly guiding his client’s career, limiting or encouraging public exposure in such a w