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Elvis At 80: Friends And Musicians Reflect On What Might Have Been

By Arjan Deelen, January 12, 2015 | People

On January 8, 2015, Elvis Aaron Presley would have turned 80. And even though he’s been dead for more than 37 years, his fame is still unrivalled and his legacy continues to inspire new generations. Graceland, his house in Memphis, is visited by 600,000 tourists every year, his music continues to sell in vast quantities, and new details about his life and death still make for popular tabloid fodder. It seems that we can’t get enough of the man from Tupelo, Mississippi. Most insiders agree that his death was inevitable; years of depression and prescribed medication abuse ended on August 16, 1977, when he was found dead in his bathroom at Graceland. It’s tempting to reflect on what his life would have been like if he had survived that fateful day. We asked several of his friends and associates, who will be touring Europe in May ’15 with An Evening with Elvis’ Friends and Original Musicians, to reflect on Elvis at 80. Would he still be singing? Would he have changed his lifestyle? Would he have toured the world? Hear the answers from those who knew him best…

Marlyn Mason, who co-starred with Elvis in his last scripted film The Trouble with Girls, and one of the very few to have actually recorded a duet with him, believes that he wouldn’t have changed all that much. “He’d still be ELVIS,” she notes. “Always with a woman, maybe the entourage would be gone… But I like to think that he’d be like Tony Bennett, in top form and keeping the fans happy. He would definitely still be singing. I think Elvis just had to sing. I don’t think that he would limit himself to any specific genre – just whatever appealed to him.” She also believes that he would have realized his dream of doing serious acting roles, and that he would have been recognized today as a great actor. “He really had it in him. He told me, ‘I’d like to do one good movie because I know people in this town laugh at me.’ This is a direct quote… The saddest thing he ever said to me.”

Drummer Bob Lanning (foto, 1972), who played the drums for Elvis at 63 concerts during his ‘comeback’ era, agrees that he wouldn’t have changed much: “I think that today Elvis would be a survivor of the rock and roll life-style. With age comes a better understanding of how you may want to temper that a bit. Having said that, Elvis would still be Elvis, and he loved his family, his buddies and his players and would still be enjoying every minute. I’m sure that he would have toured the world by now, because that’s what he loved doing most, performing… He would still be making music, and I’m sure that his creativity would have taken him to new places even he wasn’t expecting as a young man.”

Bass-player Duke Bardwell, who played 181 shows behind Elvis in the mid-70s, got to experience first-hand the toll that fame had on the rock and roll icon: the fans, the press, the paparazzi… Duke feels that the downfall was inevitable, because it was too much to handle for any one human being. He hopes that Presley, if he had still been alive today, would have found peace and solitude: “I do think his celebrity would never allow him to truly live in peace as long as his whereabouts were known to the public and to his fans. I’d like to think he’d be in a place of his choosing, unknown to most, with several companions of like minds, who could all play and sing. I see several cars that please him, including an old Caddy. There is not a gold record on the walls… anywhere. There is not a jumpsuit in a glass-case. He needs no reminders or trophies because he knows who he is and what he has done. I see a beautiful, aged woman with a forgiving and tolerant heart that holds him close at night and enables him to feel grateful for just still being alive. I see him smile…”

An Evening with Elvis’ Friends and Original Musicians will be touring Europe in May 2015. For more details please visit: www.elvisnews.dk

GEORGE (GK) wrote on January 14, 2015
Wonderful read. THANK YOU.
benny scott wrote on January 14, 2015
Nice read indeed ! Duke Bardwell's comment touches me, considering it's known Elvis wasn't too happy with Duke's (bass)playing and more than once wasn't very friendly towards him. Hats off to Duke for writing such kind words in spite of the not so good experience he underwent playing for our man. Always El.
Ton Bruins wrote on January 17, 2015
Beautiful comments from Duke Bardwell indeed.
stevo wrote on January 19, 2015
It's a very difficult one to predict. he would have to have given up the drugs. Would that ever have been possible. He would have to do world tours & have a serious film part to play. Hill & Range would have to up their game & find good songs for him to record. He would need a good woman to look after him in later life as his old family would pass on. Asking for the moon perhaps. If he could clean up his act health wise & keep a good singing voice I'm sure the fans would stick by him.
mature_elvis_fan75 wrote on February 09, 2015
Its too bad he didnt see that he didnt need a crappy manager,so much talent and too many times wasted on fluff,but i take the good,1970 being my fav part,also less of the vegas sound would have been great.
mature_elvis_fan75 wrote on February 09, 2015
I agree benny,its called having class,nice words from duke!