Monday, August 16, 2010

Pop History Moment: The Death of Elvis Presley


For years I have struggled to understand the hold that Elvis Presley had (and indeed, still has) over his legion of fans; while I've always admired his music - and accept his movies for the slight if entertaining fare they are - you'll never find me at a service of the Church of Elvis, for instance*. Then again, I'm sure there are those of you who routinely shake your heads at whichever of my cockamamie obsessions you might find here. Fandom, like stardom, is a funny thing...

It took Elvis Presley's death - on this day in 1977 - to turn his life and career into the cautionary tale it has since become; because of it, it's impossible to look at any fresh-faced newcomer now and not imagine what twenty years of egomania and deference (as much as the vicious cycle they co-create) might do to them.

Certainly, not all entertainers end up grossly overweight, drug-addicted, and exploited, but to a certain extent fame forces anyone it touches to eventually become a caricature of themselves, which cannot be good for the psyche. Coming as it did so soon before the culture of rehab really took off, one wonders how this particular story would have turned out if Elvis could have held on until 1982 and become one of the first success stories of the Betty Ford Clinic.

*Unless I'm researching a blog post, of course!

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