Elvis Aaron Presley died 36 years ago today.
I remember August 16, 1977, even though I was only five. It was a rainy day in Los Angeles, as a summertime monsoon turned the summer sun into grey wetness. I remember hearing Elvis had died on the radio as my mom and I pulled into the parking lot of a local department store. When we went in, we did what lots of other people were also doing–we bought Elvis records.
The phenomenon of Elvis changes with each passing year. The further we get from his death, the less his meaning is based in the collective memory of those who experienced him first hand–who heard him on the radio in January 1956; who danced to him at their high school dances; who screamed for him in live shows; who sat in a theater to watch his memorable string of B-movies; and who remembered hearing the news of his death.
In time, Elvis is less about those who experienced some aspect of his story as it unfolded and more about the collective memory of pop culture history.
In contribution to that history, I want to share five of my favorite Elvis performances, just some of the evidence future generations will use to frame his place in rock and roll music.
5. Medley from the NBC television special “Elvis” (1968)
4. With Frank Sinatra (from his 1960 television special)
3. “Suspicious Minds,” performed live in Las Vegas (1970)
2. “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” from Blue Hawaii (1961)
1. “Today, Tomorrow & Forever,” from Viva Las Vegas (1964)