The Tribune - Spectrum

, August 25, 2002

Remembering a legend
The Elvis magic lives on
Gaurav Sood

"...At Sun Studio in Memphis, Elvis Presley called to life what would soon be known as rock and roll with a voice that bore strains of the Grand Ole Opry and Beale Street, of country and the blues. At that moment, he ensured—instinctively, unknowingly—that pop music would never again be as simple as black and white."

David Fricke, Rolling Stone, 1986

Elvis with actress Ann-Margret in Viva Las Vegas
Elvis with actress Ann-Margret in Viva Las Vegas

HE starred in 33 successful films, made great history with his television appearances and gained great success, often record-breaking, though his live concert performances. All over the world, he sold over one billion records, believed to be more than any other artiste. The sales helped him earn gold, platinum or multi-platinum awards for 131 different albums and singles. His talent, good looks, sensuality, charisma, and good humour won the love of millions, as did the human kindness he demonstrated throughout his life. Known the world over by his first name, Elvis, he is regarded as one of the most important figures of the 20th century popular culture. Elvis died at his Memphis home, Graceland, on August 16, 1977. His 25th death anniversary was observed recently.

Elvis Aaron Presley was born in Mississippi on January 8, 1935. He and his parents moved to Memphis, Tennessee, in 1948, and Elvis graduated from Humes High School there in 1953.


Elvis’ musical influences were the pop and country music of the time. In 1954, he began his singing career with the legendary Sun Records label in Memphis. In late 1955, his recording contract was sold to RCA Victor. By 1956, he was an international star. With a sound and style that uniquely combined his diverse musical influences and blurred and challenged the social and racial barriers of the time, he ushered in a whole new era of American music and popular culture.

According to the star’s official website, Elvis has about 149 songs to appear on Billboard’s Hot 100 Pop Chart in the USA. Out of these, 114 were in the top forty, 40 were in the top ten, and 18 went to number one. He has also had over 90 charted albums with nine of them reaching number one.

In 1956, Elvis made his television debut with the first of his six appearances on Stage Show. He also starred in 31 feature films as an actor and two theatrically released concert documentary films, all of which enjoyed financial success. For a number of years, he was one of Hollywood’s top box-office draws and one of its highest-paid actors. His two most critically acclaimed films, Jailhouse Rock (1957) and King Creole (1958), have become classics of their era. His three network television specials—Elvis (1968), Elvis: Aloha from Hawaii, via satellite (1973), and Elvis in Concert (1977)—stand among the most highly rated specials of their time.

When Elvis returned to stage in 1969, after the success of his television shows he opened in Las Vegas a 4-week, 57-show engagement that broke all existing Las Vegas attendance records. Again in 1970, he broke his own attendance record at the same place. Elvis played to a total of 2,07,494 people at a six-show engagement at the Astrodome in Houston. Throughout the 1970s, Elvis toured the USA, breaking box office records. The outstanding highlights of this period were in 1972, when Elvis performed four sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden. During his "concert years" from 1969 to 1977, Elvis gave nearly 1,100 concert performances.

Elvis received 14 Grammy nominations. His three wins were for gospel recordings—the album How Great Thou Art (1967), the album He Touched Me (1972) and his live Memphis concert recording of the song How Great Thou Art (1974). In 1971, he was awarded with the Lifetime Achievement Award (known then as the Bing Crosby Award honor of its first recipient). Elvis was 36 years old at the time.

Elvis Presley was famous for giving away Cadillacs, cash and jewelry, often at the spur of the moment. In 1961, Elvis gave a benefit concert at Bloch Arena in Hawaii that raised over $65,000 towards the building of the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. The star’s generosity continues through the work of the Elvis Presley Charitable Foundation and Elvis Presley Endowed Scholarship Fund at the University of Memphis.

In 1992, the US Postal Service announced that Elvis’ picture would be used for a postal stamp. The Postal Service selected two pictures — one of Elvis in the 1950’s as a sizzling young rocker, and another as a still-svelte concert superstar in his 1973 Aloha from Hawaii special. In a strange decision, the US Postal Service Department distributed ballots amongst the masses. Over 1.2 million votes were cast, and the picture showing him as a sizzling young rocker won. The stamp was released on January 8, 1993. The Department printed 500 million of them, three times the usual print run for a commemorative stamp. Several countries outside the USA also have issued Elvis stamps over the years.

Currently, there are over 625 active Elvis fan clubs worldwide. Elvis’ popularity is at an all-time high, and his legacy continues to reach new audiences.

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