Excerpts from "the first rough draft of history" as reported in The Washington Post on this date in the 20th century.
Obese, drug-addled and paranoid by the time of his death, Elvis Presley was no longer the rebellious teen idol with the saucy sneer and the swinging hips that put the roll in rock and roll. But for a generation uncomfortably entering adulthood and middle age, he still represented youth and abandon -- the man who changed the face of popular music. Death has only increased his legend. An excerpt from The Post of Aug. 17, 1977:
By Larry Rohter and Tom Zito
Washington Post Staff Writers
Elvis Presley, who revolutionized American popular music with his earthy singing style and became a hero to two generations of rock `n` roll fans, died yesterday in Memphis, Tenn. He was 42.
Shelby County Medical Examiner Dr. Jerry Francisco said last night an autopsy indicated Presley died of "cardiac arrhythmia," which he described as a "severely irregular heartbeat" and "just another name for a form of heart attack." He said the three hour autopsy uncovered no sign of any other diseases -- though Presley had in recent years been treated at Baptist Memorial Hospital for hypertension, pneumonia and an enlarged colon -- and there was no sign of any drug abuse.
Presley's body was discovered at 2:30 p.m. Memphis time by his road manager, Jerry Esposito, in a bathroom in the singer's multimillion dollar Graceland Mansion. He was rushed to the Baptist Memorial where he was met by his personal physician, Dr. George C. Nichopoulos and pronounced dead. ...
In 1956, when Presley came crackling out of every radio speaker in the land, young Americans' notions about independence -- from parents, from religion, from the values of the home -- were forming. Elvis became "The King of rock `n` roll" but also of the emerging youth culture. He was a young, hip-thrusting white singing singing music that was essentially black. Part of his attraction was that the '50s teenagers viewed him as epitomizing everything they thought their parents feared they would become -- cocky, slick, brash, tough, black-leather-clad, motorcycle straddling, stilletto-shoed.
Their hunches of their parents fears were well confirmed after Presley's appearance on a 1956 Ed Sullivan show. While millions of teenagers screamed in unison across the land, a Catholic priest in New York deplored Sullivan for this "moral injury" and condemned Presley for his "voodoo of defiance and frustration."
Overall, he sold more than 500 million records world-wide and made 33 films. He was a millionaire many times over and lived in a style that reflected it, ensconced in his Graceland Mansion behind locked gates, like the reclusive character in "Citizen Kane," handing out jewels and Cadillacs to friends and even casual acquaintances.
No American performer had so broad an impact on culture around the world. In 1958, Communists blamed the influence of Presley for a riot in East Berlin as youths threatened to kill a border guard. In 1964, Presley received a write-in vote for President. ...
Reaction among fans, performers and music industry executives elsewhere was also emotional. In Santiago, Chile, newspapers stopped the presses and radio stations changed their evening programming to recount the life of "El Rey de Rock `n` Roll." In Memphis, the telephone system was reported unable to handle the volume of calls coming into the city from around the country. Hundreds of weeping fans gathered outside Baptist Memorial and Graceland Mansion last night. ...
"The King is dead," said former Beatle John Lennon last night. "But rock `n` roll will never die. Long live the King."
This series is available at www.washingtonpost.com