Elvis Fans Remember the King on 33rd Anniversary
Elvis Presley fans from around the world made pilgrimages to Memphis last week to mark the 33rd anniversary of the death of the undeniable and undisputed King of Rock and Roll. Elvis lost his life at his Graceland home in the Southern city on August 16, 1977, at the age of 42. Since then, Memphis has been welcoming devoted followers of the King to the annual Elvis Week, held each August to mark the anniversary and celebrate the icon's life and music. The week has been full of Elvis-related activities, from impersonator contests to Elvis movie marathons to concerts featuring some of the artists with whom Elvis once worked. The highlight of the event is the candlelight vigil, when thousands of fans line Elvis Presley Boulevard in front of Graceland to await their turn to file past the flower-adorned graves of Elvis, his parents Gladys and Vernon, and his grandmother Minnie Mae. This year, the vigil started Sunday evening and went well into the early morning hours of Monday, with some visitors pausing to wipe a tear away as they passed the final resting place of the world-wide icon. Music filled the air, with the familiar voice ringing out on songs like 'Fools Rush In' and 'If I Can Dream,' according to the Associated Press.
People of all walks of life come to Elvis Week, for their own reasons. They represent fans of the King's music everywhere. Some are there to be comforted. One man had attended six candlelight vigils but was doing so by himself for the first time since his wife's death in May.
"This vigil is kind of like for Elvis, and kind of like for her, too," he said. "It's rough this year ... I've been through down times myself for a while, but I listen to his music and it keeps me going."
Others were there to celebrate. An Australian couple was there on their honeymoon. Attending Elvis Week for the third time, Shelley Somerville, 31, and her husband were there for the music. Standing in the steamy Memphis heat with an umbrella over her head to protect herself from 100-degree weather, Shelley explained why she loves Elvis and his music so much.
"Elvis has touched a lot of hearts, and there's something spiritual about him," she observed. "There's a calming feeling around him."
Fans not able to be in Memphis for the anniversary can still pay homage in their own way. In Las Vegas, devotees flock to the ARIA Resort & Casino to see Viva Elvis by Cirque du Soleil. Others visit the small 2-room house in Tupelo, Mississippi, where Elvis was born. The QVC channel commemorated August 16 by offering special Elvis merchandise to its viewers. And visitors to both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville can explore new exhibits that focus on the King, who would also have celebrated his 75th birthday this year. 33 years after his death, Elvis and his music remain as strong as ever, embedded into world culture like perhaps no other.
58 year-old Paul Fivelson from Chicago expressed what the magic and music of Elvis means to him. Standing at the wall in front of Graceland, he likes to meet interesting people who walk past. He says his musical diet includes hearing some Elvis tunes every day.
"I miss him, I loved him," Paul declared. "To be part of the Elvis experience and the aura of the whole thing, just means everything in the world to me."