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Elvis Aaron Presley (January 8, 1935 – August 16, 1977) was one of the most popular American singers of the 20th century. A cultural icon, he is commonly known by the single name Elvis. He is often referred to as the "King of Rock and Roll" or simply "the King".
Presley is regarded as one of the most important figures of 20th-century popular culture. He had a versatile voice and unusually wide success encompassing many genres, including country, pop ballads, gospel, and blues. He is the best- selling solo artist in the history of popular music. Nominated for 14 competitive Grammys, he won three (surprisingly, all in the gospel genre), and received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award at age 36. He has been inducted into four music halls of fame.
Presley was scheduled to fly out of Memphis on the evening of August 16, 1977, to begin another tour. That afternoon, he was discovered, unresponsive, on his bathroom floor. Attempts to revive him failed, and death was officially pronounced at 3:30 pm at Baptist Memorial Hospital.
Presley's funeral was held at Graceland, on Thursday, August 18. Outside the gates, a car plowed into a group of fans, killing two women and critically injuring a third. Approximately 80,000 people lined the processional route to Forest Hill Cemetery, where Presley was buried next to his mother. Following an attempt to steal the singer's body in late August, the remains of both Elvis Presley and his mother were reburied in Graceland's Meditation Garden on October 2.
Graceland was opened to the public in 1982. Attracting over half a million visitors annually, it is the second most-visited home in the United States, after the White House. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 2006. (Click for full Wikipedia article.)
It was one of the handful of "where were you" moments that occur in a lifetime. In August, 1977 I was working in a now-defunct typesetting shop in Bethel Park, less than two miles from my current home. At the time, though, we were living hand-to-mouth in West Mifflin, with a 17-month old baby and another due in about two months.
I was getting reading to leave to catch the trolley to downtown when the phone rang. This could not be good news. A bill collector? A baby deciding to arrive ahead of time?
No- the voice on the line said The King was dead.
The trolley and bus ride home, usually a solitary activity, was instead a rolling conversation with fellow riders about Elvis' unfortunate demise and how a major contributor to the soundtrack of our lives was gone.
That was 35 years ago, and Elvis- who paved the way for all the one-name wonders that followed- is still The King.