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Whether you think of Elvis Presley as the young, energetic singer with the dynamic good looks and gyrating hips that shook the music world in the 1950’s, or the more mature Elvis
with the long sideburns and sequined jumpsuits who performed in Las Vegas, his career spanned decades. Music fans around the world were devastated by news of his death on
August 16th, 1977.

And yet, more than four decades later, the man with the voice and style that changed popular music forever, remains the King of Rock and Roll. Millions around the world still buy
his music and hundreds of thousands visit Graceland every year to see where he lived, died, and remains buried today. Elvis is so popular he ranked No. 2 (behind Michael
Jackson) on Forbes’s list of Highest Paid Celebrities for 2018. The list, released every October, showed Elvis pulling in $40 million last year.

This week, to mark the anniversary of his death, officials estimate 20,000 people or more will gather at Graceland for “Elvis Week” events.

How has he remained so deeply ingrained in our hearts, minds, and culture, so many years after his passing?

“He’s probably the most important star of all time,” notes acclaimed journalist and author, Alanna Nash. “And I’m not the first person to say that. You can’t argue with the fact that he
not only changed, but directed the course of both popular music and popular culture of the ‘50’s.”

The young man from Tupelo, Mississippi burst onto the national scene in 1956 with a style all his own. He moved and danced like no one else before him.

“And he looked like nobody else,” says Nash. “He was an incredibly beautiful human being. And when he started moving or singing you really couldn’t take your eyes off of him. I
think he still matters today because the art is so true.”

His art, she says, came from Elvis "just being Elvis. He was so unique his influence can still be felt years later in music, culture, dress, hairstyles, and pop stardom. “Unlike the stars
of today who have managers and choreographers and dressers and people who are assigned for every aspect of what they do, he largely made himself. It was his ideas for what
he wore in Vegas, it was his ideas for the music. All of that creativity came from Elvis.”

That creativity carried him through the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s, allowing him to reinvent himself in each decade. Nash says that staying power serves as a huge testament to his depth
and truth as an artist. She believes it was the loss of that ability to create that led to him, eventually, losing himself.  

“I think his decline came partly because he didn’t have many creative challenges. Part of that is because of decisions the Colonel made (his manager Colonel Tom Parker), and
part of it is that he couldn’t stand to see what he had become. In some ways becoming kind of a caricature of his former self so that he just had to numb himself out.

Nash’s journey into trying to understand Elvis began with his death. She was working as the pop music writer for the Louisville, Kentucky Courier-Journal when word broke that he
died. She was sent to Graceland to cover his funeral and became the first journalists to view his remains. She would go on to write a series of books on Elvis covering just about
every aspect of his life. Two of them serve as book ends of sorts with Elvis and the Memphis Mafia (2005) covering some of the men closest to him, and Baby, Let’s Play House:
Elvis Presley and the Women Who Loved Him (2010), covering the women.

She also wrote The Colonel: The Extraordinary Story of Colonel Tom Parker and Elvis Presley (2003), a deeply-researched book that looked at the mysterious and often
controversial figure who managed and controlled Elvis’ career.

For the Memphis Mafia book, she spoke with three members of Elvis Presley’s entourage - who between them - covered just about every phase of his life, including his cousin, Billy
Smith, who was able to detail the early years. Smith, Marty Lacker, and Lamar Fike painted a vivid portrait of what it was like to live with Elvis through the highs and lows of his life
and career, and during the later years as he began to slip away.

“They were haunted by Elvis and how they weren’t able to save him,” says Nash. “And it was extremely important for them to be able to tell their story because they’d been blamed
for letting him die, and they were blamed by fans who thought they were hangers-on when honestly I think he would have died years earlier without that pack of guys around him to
bolster him emotionally, save him from overdoses, and rescue him from lots of frightening situations when he was too drugged to realize what he was doing.”

Her book Baby, Let’s Play House explores his relationships with the women with who touched his life from lovers to friends to family members. It includes interviews with Ann-
Margret, Barbara Eden, Cybil Shepherd, and a host of others. It also delves into his extremely close relationship with his mother, Gladys.

“He was really very woman-centered because of his closeness with his mother and the death of his twin at birth,” explains Nash. “He was what a psychologist would call ‘lethally
enmeshed with his mother.’ She was always going to be the premiere female figure in his life. But he loved being around female energy and I don’t just mean sexual energy.

He liked being around young people and he adored those younger fans. It wasn’t just ‘love me, love me,’ he wanted to know what they thought about the music.”

And yet, he seemed unable to fully commit to a romantic relationship.  Nash recounts a story featured in the book involving an actress named Yvonne Lime.

“She was a starlet and you see her in those pictures when Elvis first bought Graceland and he was showing her around. She said when they were home with Gladys, if Elvis wanted
to hold Yvonne’s hand, he had to make sure he sat between her and Gladys, so he could hold her hand, too. It was so Gladys wouldn’t feel left out. That really says it all to me that
he just wasn’t psychologically capable of settling down or fully committing himself to anyone.”

Her book on the Colonel came after six years of extensive research that began when she started seeking answers to some of the allegations by members of the Memphis Mafia
about the way he handled Elvis. There were decisions that didn’t make sense, deals made that benefited the Colonel more than Elvis, and questions about his background.

“He was an illegal alien from the Netherlands who never made an attempt to become a U.S. citizen. And, of course, you have to ask why, when he lived here all of these years. He
never stepped foot out of the U.S. except very briefly to take Elvis on some Canadian dates in 1957 and he was very nervous about getting back over here.”

It did seem odd the Colonel never allowed Elvis to tour in Europe when he was so popular there.  

Nash met with Colonel Parker three times and traveled to the Netherlands to uncover his story. She says that while the Colonel made a number of bad decisions, he’s credited with
others that kept Elvis on top through the years, even when music had radically changed. The Colonel shifted Elvis from records to movies, then when the movies petered out, to
Vegas.

Still, she says, there was something that struck her with each of her three in-person meetings with Colonel Parker.

“They were strange and wonderful, he was very wily and there was a lot to like about him. He was also very amusing, but there was something predatory about him that was really
frightening. It was the only time I’ve ever felt that I’d been in the presence of evil.”

Nash admits that studying Elvis so closely through the years has not always been easy, but it has been very rewarding. While Elvis faced a number of challenges and his life ended
far too soon at the age of 42, his music, his art, and his legacy lives on. And will continue to do so.

“I expect Elvis will still be someone that generations will study long after you and I are in the grave," says Nash. “He’s probably the most influential figure in the 20th century.”

Originating Source - Forbes

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42 YEARS AFTER HIS DEATH, ELVIS REMAINS THE KING