Today marks the 30th anniversary of Elvis Presley's death (or his disappearance, depending on your point of view). This morning, we looked at the outpouring of emotion this week at Graceland, Elvis's home in Memphis, and Meredith interviewed Joe Moscheo, a friend and former backup singer for The King. ELVIS SLIDE SHOW
For some of us who were born after Elvis's death, his remarkable appeal can be a bit of a mystery. We all know about his iconic 1956 appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, his most popular songs and of course, we've seen those impersonators.
But when I was growing up, Elvis seemed like something out of another era, a black and white icon who used language I couldn't relate to or understand. His image and music had been so commercialized and was such an ingrained part of American culture, I think I subconsciously felt like I didn't need to study Elvis -- after all, weren't we all born knowing the myth of Elvis? What else was there to know?
Little did I know that by delving into the work of some of my musical heroes, like Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan, I was celebrating and embracing Elvis's legacy without even realizing it.
Springsteen has said that he wouldn't be who he is if Elvis hadn't existed. One of the more famous stories he used to tell during concerts involved him jumping over the fence at Graceland in 1976 to try to meet his hero -- even though he himself was already a mega-star, having appeared simultaneously on the covers of Time and Newsweek.
He would tell audiences that when Elvis died, "It was so hard to understand how somebody whose music came in and took away so many people’s loneliness and gave so many people a reason and a sense of all the possibilities of living could have in the end died so tragically. And I guess when you’re alone, you ain’t nothin’ but alone."
In 1999, Springsteen released the song "Johnny Bye-Bye," his tribute to Elvis, originally recorded in 1982 (and based on the Chuck Berry song "Bye-Bye Johnny").
Over the years, Dylan hasn't opened up very much to fans or the media. But in 2005, he told Ed Bradley, "I never wanted to be a prophet or a savior. Elvis maybe. I could see myself becoming him. But prophet? No."
I guess the point is that I've never considered myself an Elvis fan. But deep down, in my love of Bruce's and Bob's music, I am. In fact, we all are.
Because if we're to truly understand how the best of American pop music can, to paraphrase Springsteen, give "so many people a reason and a sense of all the possibilities of living," we can't help but appreciate Elvis's career and his legacy.