The King, Today
Elvis Today, by Mark A. Wright
Following a near-fatal heart attack in August 1977 Elvis all but disappeared from public life for almost 10 years.
It appeared to many that ‘The King’ had hung up his guitar for good.
But the musical flame could never be fully extinguished, however. Being older, perhaps wiser, Elvis felt that there was more he had to give. More to offer. More to say. He just wasn’t sure anybody would want to hear it anymore.
What he didn’t count on was the love the generation of musicians he inspired still had for him. To them he was still their King; and they wanted to say ‘thank you’.
Following his wilderness period in the 1980’s and early 1990’s a comeback album was recorded released in 1999 in time for the millennium. Titled ‘TCB’, produced by former Beastie Boys and Johnny Cash producer Rick Rubin and featuring the talents of Bono, Bruce Springsteen, Led Zeppelin a reformed Beatles of Paul, George & Ringo, Prince and the original TCB Band the album had an updated, rootsy style more in keeping with his early records than his orchestrated Vegas heyday.
It was a sure-fire Christmas No.1 and remained at the top of the US album charts for an incredible 43 weeks.
Nearing his 60th birthday, a snow white-haired, bearded Elvis went on his first-ever world tour. Lasting 18 months, every night was an instant sell out, and was the highest grossing tour in history.
For Elvis this marked another staggering comeback overshadowing the decline of his later Vegas years.
In a series of revealing interviews Elvis revealed how prescription drugs had almost taken his life. He hoped his openness would serve as a warning and inspiration for others. He became a passionate advocate for drug rehabilitation amongst the young setting up many low key charities and facilities both in Memphis and the United States. Never involving himself in politics Elvis gained respect and accolades from all parts of society.
Elvis continued touring extensively throughout the world for the next 10 years winning over a whole new generation of fans. He often joked on stage how he’d ‘thrown scarves to your grandmother’ as the throng of fans jockeyed to get closer to the stage during concerts.
On his 70th birthday Elvis announced his retirement from the music business and touring. He released his final album ‘Elvis Has Left The Building’ which sold over 35 million copies worldwide and was, of course, No.1.
A fitting finale to a truly history shaping career. However, it was always hoped Elvis could be coaxed out of retirement one last time.
That moment came in 2010 when Elvis was awarded a Grammy for ‘Lifetime Achievement Award for Exceptional Contribution to Music and Culture.’ Presented by his former wife Priscilla, Elvis accepted the award in person saying “I’m still an electrician ya know. So if you need any rewiring done just look me up. I’ll do you a good deal.” he laughed.
Never one to resist the allure of the spotlight herself, his daughter Lisa Marie unexpectedly walked onto the stage and handed him his treasured Gibson guitar. Elvis stood for a moment as the assembled crowd rose to their feet cheering, applauding, willing him to play something. Elvis stood for a moment soaking it all in. His eyes glistened with faint tears as he looked out at the crowd, visibly moved by the love and affection.
After almost a minute of continuous applause he shook his head in disbelief and that familiar smile broke across his face once again. “You want to rock and roll, huh? My leg don’t shake the way it used to. Let me see if I can remember this right.”
Elvis strapped on his guitar and with his daughter standing next to him he performed a heart rendering slow, bluesy version of That’s All Right – the song that started it all. There then followed a five-minute standing ovation.
“Maybe I should run for President!,” joked Elvis as the assembled audience of music stars and Hollywood celebrities paid tribute to the man who was introduced as “The King.”
As the applause died down Elvis leaned forward into the microphone. Giving his trademark smile he simply said “Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis is leaving the building. May God bless you all. Goodnight.” And with that he was gone.
A press release announced that that was indeed Elvis’ last public appearance. Despite numerous rumours and offers to come out of retirement Elvis refused.
He now resides at Graceland where he enjoys his retirement tending to his horses and spending time with his daughter and grandchildren.
A couple of years ago, on a not-so-cold evening in Asbury Park, I photographed The King himself, Elvis.
Actually, it was Mark A. Wright, a singer and Elvis impersonator from across the pond. Mark’s a tremendous vocalist, whether he’s doing Elvis, country songs or Rat Pack favorites.
He posted the above story on his Facebook page today, in remembrance of Elvis’ birthday today. I pinged Mark on FB and asked if I could re-run it here, and he said by all means (To go with this FB post, he used a shot Danny Clinch took of him back in 2018. I won’t hold that against him, though. :-))
The shot above, done with my Fuji X100T, is one of my all-time favorites though. Shooting from down low, I like how the lights drape the upper part of the frame, and catching Elvis/Mark in profile.
I like how the vein in Mark’s neck is bulging too, showing he’s actually singing. It’s a little thing, but I like it.
After the dark and depressing week we’ve had here in the United States, it’s nice to have some fun and be able to think about what might have been, had The King stayed with us just a little bit longer. Thanks to Mark, for that.
And, before you go, check out Mark’s YouTube page here.
Long Live The King.