Elvis Presley: The King’s Legacy, 35 Years After His Death (ANALYSIS)

She sings with the King on 'I'll Be Home for Christmas.'
The pop star was once the world's youngest Elvis impersonator.
The 'Rock of Ages' star sings 'Blue Suede Shoes.'
After the 42-year-old Elvis Presley died at home at Graceland, a reporter asked the King’s manager, Col. Tom Parker what would happen now. According to rock journalist Lester Bangs, Parker replied, ”Why, nothin’, son, it’s just like when he was in the army.”

Parker was right. Elvis has gone for 35 years, since his death on August 16, 1977, yet we haven’t been given a chance to miss him.

While the rumors persisted for a long time that he had faked his own demise, his career never really died, and he remains as inescapable a presence in pop culture as ever.

How has Elvis influenced today’s celebrities?

Here’s a test of Elvis’ pervasive influence. Think of any contemporary star. He or she almost certainly has an Elvis connection.

Nick Jonas? Once had a dog named Elvis. Bruno Mars? Was once the world’s youngest Elvis impersonator, starting around age 4. (You can see the future pop star performing in full Elvis regalia in the 1992 movie Honeymoon in Vegas, the film that also put future Elvis son-in-law Nicolas Cage into an electrically lit-up Elvis jumpsuit while parachuting out of a plane among an army of Flying Elvii.) Phillip Phillips? He was the latest American Idol winner to fit the profile of a Southern white guy with a guitar (remind you of anyone?), on a talent show whose parent company, Core Media Group, owns the Elvis Presley likeness and licensing rights. (Remember when Celine Dion duetted with an Elvis hologram on the Idol finale five years ago? That’s why.) Julia Roberts? Co-starred in Ocean’s Eleven, the 2001 film whose soundtrack put a remix of Elvis’ 1968 track “A Little Less Conversation” back on the pop charts after 33 years. Robert Pattinson? Well, who do you think influenced the Twilight star to tamp down his usually artfully-scruffy locks into a pompadour?

In his post-death career, which has now lasted nearly twice as long as his pre-death career did, Elvis has continued to release albums and compilations at a pace that would embarrass Tupac. His songs still chart, and they still appear on movie and TV soundtracks. He routinely finishes at or near the top of Forbes magazine’s annual list of the biggest earners among dead celebrities. (This year, he came in second with a $55 million gross for the year, behind only his late son-in-law, Michael Jackson.) His home is one of America’s most popular tourist attractions. (Graceland is the second most-visited private residence in the U.S., after the White House.)  The city of Las Vegas, where an Elvis-themed Cirque du Soleil show recently launched, has remade itself in his image — overstuffed and impossibly glittery; both licentious and family-friendly at once. He has sold a billion records.

Yes, that’s billion with a “B.” No doubt he’d appreciate being the McDonald’s of rock ‘n’ roll. Like America itself, Elvis was all about glorious excess. His career and life were brief, but they were long enough to see him evolve from outlaw to beloved institution. In death, he’s gone even further, to bedrock foundation of modern popular culture. Elvis is in the music we listen to, the icons we admire, the food we eat, the air we breathe, the DNA in our cells. Love or hate the King, he’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

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