On August 16, 1977, Elvis Presley died at Graceland, his sanctuary and estate in Memphis, Tennessee. He was just 42 years old. The news sent a wave of shock and sadness as the world mourned the man who transformed how we listen to music and so much more. “Elvis Presley’s death deprives our country of a part of itself. He was unique and irreplaceable... His music and his personality, fusing the styles of white country and black rhythm and blues, permanently changed the face of American popular culture,” wrote President Jimmy Carter at the time.
All this was quite the achievement for a boy who grew up poor, had failed one of his high school music classes, and was the first member in his immediate family to graduate from high school. But Elvis’ unique sound and cool soulfulness inspired legions of great artists from John Lennon to Elton John. As Keith Richards later shared, “Before Elvis, everything was in black and white. Then came Elvis. Zoom, glorious Technicolor.” Bruce Springsteen said, “It was like he came along and whispered some dream in everybody’s ear and somehow we all dreamed it.” Even Leonard Bernstein respected Elvis, remarking, “Elvis is the greatest cultural force in the 20th century.”
Thirty-eight years after the King’s passing, Graceland continues to get more than 600,000 visitors each year. Graceland is one of the most popular home tours in the United States. In fact, each August, to commemorate his death, thousands of Elvis fans descend upon Graceland to celebrate the superstar’s life, music, movies and legacy. At the end of what’s known as “Elvis Week,” the remembrances and tributes conclude with a solemn candlelight vigil on the anniversary of his August 16th passing.
Many visit Graceland and Memphis to get a better understanding of the man and his music. “While most celebrities move away from their home, Elvis always stayed in Memphis,” explains Andrea Shaw, who created the Memphis Map for Elvis Fans. The illustrated map chronicles more than 100 locales and landmarks where Presley lived, worked, and played in Memphis, offering a chance for visitors to follow in his footsteps and visualize his life. Through the map, visitors can see the site of the factory where Elvis worked on an assembly line. There’s the record pressing plant where he saw his first hit record being being pressed. Learn about the Peabody Hotel, where Elvis attended senior prom, or visit the site of Teen Canteen, where Elvis kissed his girlfriends. Or check out Lansky Brothers, the famous men’s clothing store, which kept him in those great outfits.
Even for those who can’t get to Memphis, there are still ways to connect with the man and get a better understanding of his magic. Click to this Parade.com story for some ideas.