…is about as hard to grasp as a hunk of cloud out an airplane window…
Sure, watching those grainy, Technicolor recordings of his concerts or media/family videos of his time at Graceland look certainly out-dated and hokey, but there was something special in his aura, in the atmosphere he generated, in the man himself, and of course, in the music, wasn’t there?
And the more the years roll by, and the older I get, I’m finally seeing the man over the “image” of the man, the imperfect human over the perfect sex idol, the real essence of Elvis Presley over the image of “Elvis”.
It’s not that he wasn’t all those things to us girls way back when; it’s just that we locked eyes on those eyes, those cheekbones, those lips and that hair, and we really saw very little else.
It was what made Elvis Presley “Elvis” in those days, even now.
Today, Elvis would turn 75 if he had lived. Instead, he died three years younger than I am right now, and although I’m no spring chicken myself anymore, dying at 45, or at 42 like “E”, is truly unthinkable to me. Sure, the body isn’t any 21 year old anymore but the mind feels like it’s only beginning when one hits their 40s.
But that’s the essence of what “Elvis” was that Elvis Presley would never be.
The “image” could never fail, never falter, never grow old in any of our eyes. We, his fans, sentenced him to death well before the talent and the genius that was him had a chance to really bloom.
Now, I can so easily envision Elvis in an advisory roll to many of the new musicians of today, giving them the gift of his experience and musical intuition, right to his dying day. But that would require us, his fans, allowing him to fail, and falter and grow old…and I guess he thought we’d never allow that.
I wonder if he was right?
Elvis was only one in a pair of heart-throbs in those days and his counter-part, Tom Jones, managed to survive our admiration and adoration quite well. Whether by luck or by breeding or by a more realistic view of himself, Tom was able to break free of the idol image and come back down to earth long enough for his fans to accept that he was “sex walking” no matter how old he got.
We didn’t see the deepening lines, or the thinning, greying hair, our adoration for the man and the voice was and is as strong today as it was in the hay-day of his career, just as Elvis’ had been.
The realities of both men are and were vastly different though.
Tom is in great health, his voice deeper and stronger now than in his youth and although some time ago he finally abandoned the silly notion of dying his hair, now sporting his natural snow white mop, his mental/physical/vocal faculties are intact,, no question.
Elvis’ physical situation was far worse.
Beyond the publicly known prescription pill addiction, Elvis suffered from raging glaucoma, having to take daily eye drops, wearing those signature dark, metal framed sun-glasses, really as a medical necessity over a strictly fashionable one. Some in the know claimed that he would have been legally blind in no time.
His terrific mane of hair was seriously thinning and it was said that “E” had a small bald spot on the top of his head that his hair-dresser, Larry Geller, would spray-paint black to match his dyed black (naturally sandy blond) hair.
The weight gain was, of course, a constant battle for “E” as well, a more than likely inherited trait from his Mother and not helped one bit by a constant diet of fat-rich southern home cooking. At one point, his entourage, “The Memphis Mafia”, lead by Joe Esposito, kept him drugged up for close to two weeks just so he wouldn’t eat - a desperate act to lose the weight.
The weight, the stress of touring endlessly and yes, the pills, all began to have an affect on his voice. His signature tone stayed true but at the end, he lost the strength to hold a note just from the lack of breath.
You take away a singer’s voice and you might as well load up your shotgun and take that singer out to the “back forty” because he no longer has a reason to live.
Yet, if Elvis had been able to see beyond the present, he actually had many reasons to live. But too many years of drug abuse and poor life-style choices robbed his mind and his body of the will to carry on beyond what he currently saw for himself – the eternal heart-throb.
Nowadays, Elvis would be a grandfather of four, the pride from that alone would probably have made him utterly speechless and the well-known personal failings of his daughter may have never occurred if her Father had been there when she needed him.
I suffered a separation trauma with my own Father when I was Lisa Marie’s age the year her Father died, and believe me when I say that losing a parent then, when you’re old enough to understand the loss but too young to protect yourself from the psychological damage, is a hurt from which you never quite recover.
As it stands though, at 42, in 1977, the lights went out for good in Graceland for her, and for us, for good.
Yes, at 75, if he had lived, we girly fans of Elvis would have had to accept the fact that even he was human, and imperfect, and in the end suffering from the frailties of age, just like the rest of us.
Maybe some people just aren’t meant to grow old.
Maybe some people just aren’t allowed to grow old.