Sunday, October 11, 2009

Memories of Elvis

Elvis memorabilia is being auctioned off, I heard on the news the other day: his scarf, a cape he threw out to the audience and several other items.

For me, Elvis' music and my memories of "The King," are more precious than mere things.

I can still hear myself swoon. It was a hot, summer night near Sarasota, Florida.

I had not reached puberty yet, but I realized I was close to it when I saw the lean, mean "Memphis flash" walk out on a rickety stage, attack the microphone, eat the mike, hike up the right side of his mouth, shimmy down into a split, look handsome and pure one minute, animalistic and sexy the next while singing in the voice of an angel.

I didn't know it then, but he personified American rock and roll. How could I know? I was a kid, attending a day camp. Mother drove me and members of my swim team to see our heartthrob, because his songs inspired us while performing our water ballets.

We were certain Elvis loved women. His told us so in song. He was always wanting to love us and wanting us to forgive him. He never degraded us. How could we NOT love him?

That night so many moons ago, Elvis surveyed the crowd with an amused look. Our screams made him laugh.

But when the music began, he was transformed into another dimension. He was a wild man, a tiger out of control, stalking his prey with song.

He was the American dream, a sharecropper and truck driver's son who found fame and fortune. He represented the future, the integrated South. He seemed both black and white.

That night, the microphone and a string from his guitar gave way to his wild gyrating performance. I screamed myself hoarse and my knees felt week. Yet, I'm pleased to say I didn't faint as others in the crowd did.

It was a night I will never forget, and I feel fortunate I was able to see him then and a number of times after that, even though I later realized he was in trouble.

When he died, I came to the conclusion he was a bundle of contradictions, sort of like the American South.

He spoke out against drugs but he died from a heart attack brought about by drug abuse.

He loved Jesus and his mother yet he cheated on the women in his life.

He was a law and order man who broke the law when it suited him.

He was a tragic figure who has been idolized the world over in spite of the public's knowlege of his real life.

He was a millionaire many times over but the Southern abject poverty from which he sprang was always present.

He was America's first Southern rock hero yet he disdained rock music.

He gave the world and its people a part of the South we will never forget, and his fans don't want to let go of that.

I suppose that's why so many of them are willing to pay top dollar for any Elvis memorabilia. For me, my memories of the man and his music are better than material stuff.


  1. I didn't grow up in the south and in my world of pre-teen Elvis wasn't what he would turn into later. I enjoyed hearing how he made you feel. He had a heart of gold and would help anyone but he sadly was tormented somehow inside. Most artists do their best work when depressed or down, brings out the passion. Enjoyed your view point of "The King". Love ya, Janet

  2. Thanks for reading my column about Elvis. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I agree with you. Elvis was tormented by his personal demons and worldly success. As many artists do, he lost control of his dreams and sacrificed himself to please his fans.


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