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How and why Elvis has changed us all

Elvis Presley August 10, 1997
Web posted at: 11:10 p.m. EDT (0310 GMT)

An essay from Correspondent Bruce Morton

(CNN) -- Elvis lives. How could you doubt it? He did die, of course, 20 years ago this coming weekend. But he lives -- the once and future king.

It's not just the 750,000 visitors to Graceland every year, or Elvis Presley Enterprises, with estimated yearly revenues of $75 million marketing a product -- Mickey Mouse in blue suede shoes.

Clips of Elvis appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show
video icon 816K/20 sec. QuickTime movie

The Elvis that lives changed all our lives, from the time, maybe, when Ed Sullivan introduced the 21-year-old Presley to millions on TV, saying, "I don't know what he does, but it drives people crazy." TV was so scared of what he did that the camera never went below his waist.

20 years later fans still honer the King

The Elvis that lives gave away Cadillacs, once spent $16,000 to fly his private jet to Denver for peanut butter sandwiches, met President Richard Nixon and offered to be a "federal agent-at-large to work against drug use." The Elvis who lives knew loneliness:

"Well, since my baby left me, I found a new place to dwell. It's down at the end of Lonely Street at Heartbreak Hotel."

The Elvis who lives grew older, and fatter -- too much peanut butter; too many people.

The Elvis who lives changed America. He didn't invent rock 'n' roll, but he helped, mingling in his music black rhythm- -and-blues, white country, gospel, everything.

He didn't invent the sexual revolution, but he helped. And most of all, maybe he gave teen-agers a culture of their own -- songs to dance to, hairstyles and clothes to copy, visions of hot rods to drive.

His music drove parents crazy, and kids loved that. Of course, Frank Sinatra never scared their parents half as much.

Elvis lives, the king lives, because, whether or not you loved his music, he changed the culture; he changed so many lives.

"Love me tender," he asked. And millions of us did.


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