Long live the king

Elvis fans pre­pare for 40th an­niver­sary of his death

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE -

MEM­PHIS, Ten­nessee — Elvis Presley, the United States icon and king of rock ‘n’ roll, trans­formed pop­u­lar cul­ture, sold over a bil­lion records and is idol­ized as ever on the 40th an­niver­sary of his tragic death.

His Grace­land man­sion in Mem­phis, Ten­nessee — the sec­ond most fa­mous home in the United States af­ter the White House — ex­pects more than 50,000 peo­ple to de­scend for the big­gest ever an­nual cel­e­bra­tion of his life 40 years af­ter his death aged 42 on Au­gust 16, 1977.

Presley is con­sid­ered the best-sell­ing artist of all time, shift­ing an es­ti­mated bil­lion records. In 2016, Forbes ranked him fourth high­est earn­ing dead celebrity at $27 mil­lion, still mov­ing a mil­lion al­bums.

“He is the only per­son of mod­ern times who is in­stantly rec­og­niz­able through­out the world by his first name,” said Bri­tish au­thor and artist Ted Har­ri­son, who has writ­ten two books about Presley.

“Say ‘Elvis’ in Bei­jing, Nicaragua, Es­to­nia or Fiji and you get an im­me­di­ate recog­ni­tion across lan­guage and cul­ture,” he said.

His unique voice and style blended R&B, blues, coun­try, gospel and black mu­sic, chal­leng­ing so­cial and racial bar­ri­ers at the time, and earn­ing him the nick­name “Elvis the Pelvis” for his gy­rat­ing moves.

Ooz­ing style, charisma and naked sex ap­peal, he was the fan­tasy of mil­lions of women and in­spired ev­ery­one who came af­ter him, from The Bea­tles to The Rolling Stones to to­day’s chart-top­per Bruno Mars.

“Hear­ing him for the first time was like bust­ing out of jail,” Bob Dy­lan has said.

In the late 1960s, the com­poser and con­duc­tor Leonard Bern­stein called him “the great­est cul­tural force in the 20th cen­tury”.

Hits such as Heart­break Ho­tel, Hound Dog, Jail­house Rock and Are You Lone­some Tonight are in­stantly rec­og­niz­able. His mu­sic has been reis­sued and repack­aged count­less times since his death.

More than 20 mil­lion peo­ple have vis­ited Grace­land, his home for 20 years, af­ter Priscilla, his ex-wife and mother of his only child Lisa Marie, opened it to the pub­lic in 1982.

The es­tate says it pulls in 600,000 vis­i­tors a year and con­trib­utes around $150 mil­lion a year to the Mem­phis econ­omy. Nei­ther is it show­ing any sign of slow­ing down.

In down­town Mem­phis, home of the blues, you can buy ev­ery­thing Elvis — from Christ­mas tree dec­o­ra­tions to lug­gage. Card­board Elvis cutouts greet you out­side bars and his mu­sic blares out of loud­speak­ers.

“He’s the celebrity of all celebri­ties,” said Lisa Bseiso, 36, who set up The Of­fi­cial Elvis Presley Fan Club of Qatar, the Mid­dle Eastern king­dom where she was born and raised.

“Forty years af­ter his death, that’s why he’s a phe­nom­e­non. He’s still as pow­er­ful, as lov­ing.”

MAN­DEL NGAN / AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A fan takes a photo of her­self at the Med­i­ta­tion Gar­den where Elvis Presley is buried along­side his par­ents and grand­mother at his Grace­land man­sion on Satur­day in Mem­phis, Ten­nessee.

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