Eighiner: In death, Elivs is still touching lives

Posted: Aug. 13, 2011 3:31 pm Updated: Nov. 29, 2014 8:17 am


Remember a year ago at this time when those 33 men were trapped in a Chilean mine shaft for two months?

One of the miners who was entombed, a fellow named Edison Pena, entertained the others by singing Elvis Presley songs.

If you did not believe in the never-ending, ever-growing popularity of Elvis before hearing that, I would imagine the image of trapped Chilean miners singing "Suspicious Minds" might just seal the deal. It's probably not an overstatement to call Elvis the fist true American Idol. Sorry about that, Simon Cowell.

For many, Tuesday is a kind of unofficial national holiday. It was Aug. 16, 1977, when Elvis died at the age of 42. As popular as Elvis was when he was alive, he's even more successful 34 years following his death.

I can remember the day Elvis died. I was a couple of years into my first job with a daily newspaper, working for a small publication in Ohio. I remember -- quite vividly -- the managing editor questioning whether the death was worthy of Page 1. After about a 15-minute discussion, Elvis was granted a spot about halfway down the front page, right below a story about the city council.

Can you imagine if Elvis would have died today, in the age of the 24-hour news cycle and the Internet? The coverage of the death of Michael Jackson might have been made to look miniscule in comparison.

More than three decades after the death of Elvis, consider:

º There are more than 500 U.S.-based Elvis fan clubs, and they exist in every state but North Dakota, Idaho and Wyoming.

º 84 percent of Americans say their lives have been touched by Elvis in some way, according to American Demographics magazine. (That's more people than watched the most recent Super Bowl.)

º 70 percent have watched a movie starring Elvis.

º 31 percent have bought an Elvis record, CD or video.

º 10 percent have visited Graceland, his home in Memphis, Tenn.

Come Tuesday, there will be stories about and coverage of the anniversary of the death of The King. We will see women weeping at the gates of Graceland, footage of Elvis' famed comeback concert of 1968 and glimpses of his final days when he was grossly overweight and wore bell bottoms and capes.

By the time of his death, Elvis was little more than a caricature of himself, which was sad. Much of his music never received the credit it was due while he was alive, and over the years since his death some of his efforts have received more acclaim than they actually deserve.

Before we are inundated with Elvis music on and around Tuesday, here are my two cents on the best and the worst of some of his best-known singles:

The best Elvis songs:

1. "I Can't Help Falling In Love With You" (1962): I still get chills every time this song comes on one of the oldie channels.

2. "The Wonder of You" (1970).

3. "Suspicious Minds" (1969).

4. "Burning Love" (1972).

5. "(Marie's the Name) His Latest Flame" (1962).

The most overrated Elvis songs:

1. "A Little Less Conversation" (1968): The song was first heard in the Elvis film "Live A Little, Love A Little." It was terrible then, and remains terrible today, but don't hold it against the memory of Elvis. Even the Beatles and Rolling Stones recorded an occasional clunker, too.

2. "It's Now Or Never" (1960).

3. "Are You Lonseome Tonight" (1960).

4. "Heartbreak Hotel" (1956).

5. "Crying in the Chapel" (1965).

But let me add, even the "worst" Elvis songs are better than most of what we hear on the radio today. Well, except that "A Little Less Conversation" offering.




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