Elvis, the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, would have turned 75 years old on January 8, 2010. Although he stopped celebrating birthdays at 42, his memory and influence continue to live on. As his die-hard fans, we know that Elvis is forever.
It’s easy for the King’s birthday to slip by unnoticed, with only a few days of remembrance at Graceland. The press rarely acknowledges Elvis during his birthday month. But why August over January? Graceland strategically chose the summer month for their annual Presley bash, drawing more fans to an Elvis carnival in the warm season.
This year, however, let’s take a moment to reflect on the significance of Elvis’s 75th birthday. It’s a benchmark age that invites us to assess his life and legacy. Just like waking up on a milestone birthday, we can’t help but wonder: Do we know where Elvis was going? Did he like the things that life showed him?
As a lifelong Elvis fan, I must excuse myself from objectively judging the man. Instead, let’s turn to Abbie Hoffman—an astute observer and critic of American culture—who wrote an article about Elvis for Crawdaddy magazine in 1977. Hoffman’s insights provide a dispassionate evaluation of Elvis’s life.
Back in the mid-’50s, Elvis emerged as a satin rocket from the Memphis music scene, captivating the world as its most famous singer. In an era of conformity, where sex, politics, art, and dope were taboo, music became the battleground for cultural battles between the “Insies and the Outsies.” And Elvis led the revolution.
According to Hoffman, Elvis was at his best from 1955 to 1958. He may not have been a great musician, but he possessed a natural ear for music, a striking sense of rhythm, and an unmatched stage presence. He was a champ of the people—a Working-Class Hero. But things changed as fame engulfed Elvis.
The army haircut altered Elvis, transforming him from rebel to idol. He found solace in Graceland, surrounded by bodyguards, cronies, and the infamous Colonel. The ’60s weren’t made for Elvis, and the Colonel shielded him from the winds of change. Elvis became part of the no-talent Hollywood, churning out movies and walking through his roles.
And then, Elvis returned to the people. Hoffman was in attendance when Elvis played at Madison Square Garden in 1972. The sight of Elvis, a larger-than-life figure in his Liberace white Superman suit, captivated the suburbanites who had managed to escape their routines for a night.
But even with these moments of glory, Hoffman couldn’t help but feel a pang of regret. He asked himself, “What if Elvis had taken better care of himself? What if he had lived to celebrate his 75th birthday?” The possibilities of more music, respected acting roles, and countless stage performances haunted the hearts of all Elvis fans.
So, on this special birthday, let’s honor the life and work of Elvis Presley. Let’s remember the impact he had on our lives and take a moment to reflect on what might have been. Elvis, the legend, lives on in our hearts, forever singing and shaking up our souls.