*Author’s note: Click on the words in green throughout this article for links to related video and audio clips and supporting articles.

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by Bob Langham

 

Whether you believe he is dead or not, the thirty-first anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death (or disappearance for the non-believers) is this week. I’m personally a believer. I think he is gone or he would have cashed in on the Reality TV bonanza like so many other former rock celebrities (Brett Michaels, Gene Simmons , and Ozzy Osbourne ) whose fame sadly faded with their age and the age of their groupie pools.

Is it too far of a stretch to imagine if Elvis had not died that he would have been the perfect subject for a pathetic reality show centered on him?  I could see him, overweight, shuffling around Graceland in a prescription drug induced stupor, wearing sequined Dickies coveralls,

and a cape made out of a jumbo pillowcase clothes pinned around his neck. He would probably be crooning some of his favorite songs through the halls of his mansion as hangers on still cling to him trying to cash in on what, if anything, is left of his fame in the post MTV digital music era.

Don’t get me wrong. As a kid and early teen, I liked Elvis and his music and I still do.  I was exposed to rock and roll at an early age through my mom’s Elvis 45s and albums. While my friends were rocking to Kiss, I was rocking to the King. I even preferred fat Elvis to those crazy makeup-wearing dudes that looked like ladies.  I was rocking  to Burning Love  and Suspicious Minds while my friends were jamming to Detroit Rock City and BethI did not make the connection at the time, but even if Kiss was not my thing, Elvis was part of the rock and roll evolution that taught the youth that they could safely rebel against the status quo through music and song (a rebellion I practice to this day). This rock and roll evolution led to and inspired Kiss and their outrageous antics on stage as well as many other bands and individual artists that preceded Kiss and those that would follow. The influence of Elvis on future pop/rock celebrities goes beyond his singing talent, stage presence, and commercial appeal. His memory also serves as a warning of the dark side of fame.  It was sad enough that Elvis died as a result of the excessive amounts of “prescription” drugs in his system prescribed by his own personal Dr. Feel Good, but it was even worse that he had become a bloated parody of himself by the end of his life.

Elvis serves as a marker for his rock idol celebrity successors not only of how high you can climb, but also how far you can fall and how pathetic you can look during that fall.  This dual nature of fame as personified by the King may explain why his legend continues to appear in many songs today.

In memory of the anniversary of his death I have compiled a list of some of the lyrical references to show how Elvis lives (even for believers) if not in body, at least in spirit and in the minds of many modern day singers as they channel him through their song lyrics while trying to cope with their own personal demons of celebrity and fame.

 

Click on the song titles below to listen to the following songs:

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My, My, Hey, Hey (Out of the Blue and Into the Black) Neil Young 

 The king is gone but he’s not forgotten
This is the story of Johnny Rotten
It’s better to burn out ’cause rust never sleeps
The king is gone but he’s not forgotten
Hey hey, my my
Rock and roll can never die
There’s more to the picture
Than meets the eye.

 

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 She didn’t look too good and yeah and I knew it was close to the end
and I tried to smile and cheer her up, but it’s kind of hard to lose a friend
and then she looked up at me and gave me a little wink,
Said “Don’t worry Hoss, it’s not as bad as you think.
I’ve been everywhere and you know I’ve done everything.
My only regret in life was I never got to meet the King.”
And I said, “Are you talking about Jesus?”
 
She said, “Oh no, bless my soul, I’m talking about the boy from Memphis,
the King of Rock and Roll.”
She said, “Billy, I got all of his records. And I even got a lock of his hair.
Well maybe if I’m good, I’ll see him when I get up there.”
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Round Here – Counting Crows

 

Maria came from Nashville with a suitcase in her hand
She said she’d like to meet a boy who looks like Elvis
She walks along the edge of where the ocean meets the land
just like she’s walking on a wire in the circus
She parks her car outside of my house
Takes her clothes off says she’s close to understanding Jesus

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Johnny Bye Bye – Bruce Springsteen

 

Well she drew out all her money from the Southern Trust
And put her little boy on the Greyhound Bus
Leaving Memphis with a guitar in his hand
With a one way ticket to the Promised Land

Hey little girl with the red dress on
There’s party tonight down in Memphis town
I’ll be going down there if you need a ride
The man on the radio says Elvis Presley’s died

We drove to Memphis the sky was hard and black
Up over the ridge came a white Cadillac
They drawled out all his money and they laid him in the back
A woman cried from the roadside “Oh he’s gone, he’s gone”

They found him slumped up against the drain
With a whole lotta trouble running through his veins

 

Bye bye Johnny
Johnny bye bye
You didn’t have to die
You didn’t have to die
 

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Free Falling – Tom Petty

 

She’s a good girl, loves her mama
Loves Jesus and America, too
She’s a good girl, crazy ’bout Elvis
Loves horses and her boyfriend, too

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Calling Elvis – Dire Straits

Calling Elvis – is anybody home?
Calling Elvis – I’m here all alone
Did he leave the building?
Or can he come to the phone?

Calling Elvis – I’m here all alone
Well tell him I was calling just to wish him well
Let me leave my number – heartbreak hotel
Oh love me tender – baby don’t be cruel
return to sender – treat me like a fool

Calling Elvis – is anybody home?
Calling Elvis – I’m here all alone
Did he leave the building?
Or can he come to the phone?
Calling Elvis – I’m here all alone

 

Why don’t you go get him – I’m his biggest fan
You gotta tell him – he’s still the man
Long distance baby – so far from home
Don’t you think maybe you could put him on?
 
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Porcelain Monkey – Warren Zevon   
  
 
 
 
 

 

 

From a shotgun shack singing Pentecostal hymns
Through the wrought iron gates to the TV room
He had a little world, it was smaller than your hand
It’s a rockabilly ride from the glitter to the gloom
Left behind by the latest trends
Eating fried chicken with his regicidal friends
That’s how the story ends
With a porcelain monkey
He threw it away for a porcelain monkey
Gave it all up for a figurine
He traded it in for a night in Las Vegas
And his face on velveteen
   
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Blue Moon Revisited (Song for Elvis)   – Cowboy Junkies

 I only want to say
That if there is a way
I want my baby back with me
’cause he’s my true love
my only one don’t you see?
And on that fateful day
Perhaps in the new sun of May
My baby walks back into my arms
I’ll keep him beside me
forever from harm

 
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 American Pie – Don McLean

 Oh, and while the King was looking down
The jester stole his thorny crown
The courtroom was adjourned
No verdict was returned
And while Lennon read a book of Marx
The quartet practiced in the park
And we sang dirges in the dark
The day the music died

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If Dirt were Dollars – Don Henley

I was flyin’ back from Lubbock
I saw Jesus on the plane
…or maybe it was Elvis
You know, they kinda look the same

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Man on the Moon  –  R.E.M.

Now, Andy did you hear about this one?
Tell me, are you locked in the punch?
Hey Andy are you goofing on Elvis?
Hey, baby.
Are we losing touch?

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RockStar –  Nickelback    

I wanna be great like Elvis without the tassels
Hire eight body guards that love to beat up assholes
Sign a couple autographs
So I can eat my meals for free

 
 
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The Visitor – The Reverend Billy C. Wirtz  
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