On August 16, 1977 Elvis Presley, the king of rock'n' roll, died. The stunning news swept around the world where he was worshipped by millions of fans.
I was a 13 year old boy riding with a family friend who was negotiating the streets of San Francisco when we heard about the king's death on the radio. She had to pull over. Her eyes filling with tears.
He had so many fans and yet , after turning "forty and fat", Elvis distanced himself from almost everyone in his life. He died alone in a bathroom in his 23-room mansion, 14-acre estate in Memphis, Tennessee, called Graceland, and is buried there along with his parents and grandmother.
I visited on winter day in 1995 when I stopped in Memphis on the way to a new job in Colorado. There are messages from fans on the stone wall outside Graceland. His gravesite adorned with flowers year round and I even caught a photo of a man who still dresses like Elvis.
By then I was enough of a fan to know what I liked about Elvis : his comeback albums Elvis Is Back! (1961) and From Elvis in Memphis (1969); his gospel album His Hand in Mine (1960) and everything that makes up The Sun Sessions. At his best, Elvis was an incredibly inventive singer, charming, good looking, sexy, and soulful.
Of course he was not at his best in 1977. On stage he was sweating profusely, his prematurely white hair dyed shoe polish black, carrying around several pounds of waste that he couldn't defecate without pain, That's why he died on the toilet in the middle of the night.
On the tenth anniversary of Elvis's death , I wandered the streets of Charleston, South Carolina asking people for their memories. "He loved his mama," one lady said. "Elvis loved his mama".