Since the day Elvis Presley was pronounced dead of a drug overdose on August 16, 1977, rumors and conjecture have alleged that he is still among the living, even to this day — motivated by his desire to escape his own oppressive and extreme fame.
By Matt DeReno
CoverUps.com Staff Writer
Or is it just that some Elvis fans can’t let go? Is there truth to the persistent rumors that he faked his own demise to recover the privacy and peace he lost when he became a star? CoverUps.com takes a look at the King, his legend, and the enduring mystery of his death. Was there a conspiracy behind it?
Elvis Presley was born in Tupelo, Mississippi on January 8, 1935. His family lived in near poverty during his childhood. Elvis was reared as an only child (his identical twin brother was stillborn) and was very close to his mother.
It was his mother who encouraged Presley to buy his first guitar, instead of the rifle that was his heart's desire. But once he had his guitar, he was rarely seen without it.
The Presleys attended the Assembly of God church, which was later to have a large influence on his music and the unique sound he would become famous for.
As Elvis got older, he would play music anywhere he could, gradually making a name for himself in Memphis along the famed Beale Street. The blues legend B.B. King even recalls Elvis “hanging around” before he became big.
Stardom was far from a slam dunk for Elvis in the beginning. Most music producers at the time didn't think his “sound” was marketable. He was, after all, a white man playing "black" music, and many producers thought that made him unattractive to listeners of either ethnic persuasion (it turns out just the opposite were true). A tipping point did come though when his mixture of black gospel sounds and rhythms, and provocative hip-gyrating performances, flashed over, bringing him fame in an astonishingly short time. The rest, as they say, is legend.
As he gained in popularity, Elvis acted in movies (many of them blatant vehicles to promote his music) and performed live concerts nationwide. His live concert in Hawaii was the first concert to be broadcast via satellite, and it reached an estimated one billion people. Many musicians today credit Elvis as their inspiration to pursue music as a career. John Lennon was reported to have said, “Without Elvis… there would be no Beatles.”
But as Elvis became more and more famous, he also became increasingly withdrawn. He learned the hard way that there's an emptiness to fame; it was something he could not quite come to terms with, and it would ultimately prove to be his undoing. He turned to drugs (which he'd experimented with in the army) in search of solace.
Presley divorced his wife Priscilla Beaulieu in 1973, and grew increasingly isolated and overweight. His drug use took a heavy toll on his health, mood and stage act.
Despite these highly visible problems, Presley could still give great performances — and the numbers back this up. His concerts were always sold out and his records continued to generate hits despite the divergent path contemporary music scene took, with new artists like the Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin and Led Zeppelin becoming the new icons of popular culture.
Over time though the pressures of fame mounted without mercy on Elvis. He grew obese. He dieted obsessively and then binge ate. Eventually all desire to keep himself physically fit disappeared.
He gave his last stage performance in Indianapolis, at the Market Square Arena, on June 26.
At the age of 42, Elvis was discovered face down on the floor of a bathroom at Graceland, at 2:30 p.m. on August 16. He was last seen earlier that day playing racquet ball with members of his entourage. According to the medical investigator, he had "stumbled or crawled several feet before he died." He was officially pronounced dead at 3:30 p.m. at the Baptist Memorial Hospital. Cause of death was listed as heart disease, but many speculated that the sheer amount of prescription drugs in his body — at least 10 were detected — had to have played a sizable role.
Hundreds of thousands of fans, press and celebrities, lined the streets hoping to see the open casket in Graceland or to witness the funeral.
Many suspicious facts surround his final days, and for many years fans claimed he was still alive (and some persist in that fact to the time of this article's being written) and had retreated from public view. If so, his death is one of the all time great CoverUps. Read on for some of the more popular theories that support his death as a hoax.
Elvis had a famous meeting with President Richard Nixon. According to some sources, Nixon issued Elvis Presley a DEA badge. Bizarrely, Elvis was said to have presented Nixon with a hand gun as a gift.
Was this a clue that Elvis was helping investigators with a major case and later was forced to enter the federal witness protection program? It seems highly unlikely.
In 1977, the National Enquirer allegedly paid a third cousin of Elvis to smuggle a camera in to his funeral viewing to snap a few photos. The pictures raised questions: Elvis's eyebrows, his chin, and his fingers all looked unlike Elvis. Then again, dead guys often don’t look the same as they did in life.
Other sources say the coffin weighed 900 pounds. Elvis is known to have been overweight at the time of his death, but he wasn’t that big. The theory here holds that the weight was due to the presence of an air conditioner installed inside to keep the wax dummy of Elvis from melting.
Some say Elvis’ father, Vernon, misspelled Elvis’ middle name on the grave: "Aaron" instead of “Aron” — as his mother named him. But was this instead a sign that Vernon Presley knew his son was alive and not in the tomb, and the misspelling was a symbolic way of recognizing that? Then again, existing evidence suggests there was confusion as to the proper spelling of his middle name prior to his death.
Elvis’s manager, Colonel Tom Parker, said in a press conference shortly after his death: “Elvis didn’t die. The body did. We’re keeping up the good spirits. We’re keeping Elvis alive. I talked to him this morning and he told me to 'carry on.’”
Should we take the Colonel literally?
In 2000, an independent label released a CD entitled “Kingtinued” featuring “the voice of Elvis.” In it, at least fourteen well-known songs are crooned by the voice, allegedly an exact match to that of Elvis. However, Tears in Heaven, La Vida Loca, Sweet Home Alabama, Have I Told You Lately, and Candle in the Wind were not written and did not exist prior to August 16th, 1977. So how could it be The King?
Not so says the producer of the record, who credited Doug Church as the “voice of Elvis.” But that didn't stop some conspiracy buffs from claiming they had compared the voice on Kingtinued to a sample of Elvis’ original recordings and found it to be an exact match and thus truly the King singing incognito. You be the judge. Buy the record on Amazon.
The circumstances of death are described by different people in different ways. Witnesses disagree as to how the body was found and what Elvis was wearing, when the body was found, whether he was already dead, when death was declared, and what techniques were used to resuscitate him. Was the mix of drugs in his system the culprit or was it coronary artery disease? The accounts vary.
|•||Elvis did not order new costumes for a new tour that was slated to begin on August 16th, 1977|
|•||He fired several old friends shortly before his death. Was it because of a book they wrote about him?|
|•||On his last tour he sang Blue Christmas although it was summer|
|•||Allegedly, five months before Elvis's death, family members were abruptly cut out of his will. Did he realize he needed that money as a resource to live incognito?|
One day after Elvis’s death, a ticket to Buenos Aires was purchased at a Memphis airport. The buyer supposedly looked a lot like Elvis and used the name “Jon Burrows.” It was the same name Elvis often used when he made hotel reservations on tour.
Elvis Presley continues to be an enduring American icon who transcended being a mere musician. His death, while arriving prematurely, cemented his status as a legend. But, what if Elvis wanted out of the life he'd created for himself and found intolerable? What if he thought faking his own death was the best way to do solve his dilemma? There is plausibility in these questions.
He was tired, overweight, and according to many observers displeased with the direction his career was headed. He had reason to disappear from the public eye. If so, why not just quit? Why not lay the guitar down and slip back into the fold of everyday life? After all, time would march on and new music stars would take the limelight.
Until it is proven that the body entombed in Graceland is not that of Elvis, we can never know. But one thing is beyond a doubt: Elvis was a once-in-a-lifetime musician who took rock and roll in a whole new direction. His legacy is perhaps as great as any in the annals of American pop culture and rock and roll. In that sense Elvis is indeed alive, and probably always will be.
Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley
by Peter Guralnick
by Peter Guralnick
Elvis: The Last 24 Hours
by Albert Goldman
Elvis and Me
by Priscilla Presley
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