A journalist from Time Magazine was speaking to composer Leonard Bernstein in the late 1960s when the topic of the greatest cultural force of the 20th century came up. When the reporter suggested Picasso, Bernstein was quick to disagree.
“No,” Bernstein said. “It’s Elvis. He introduced the beat to everything, and he changed everything – music, language, clothes, it’s a whole new societal revolution – the 60s come from it.”
It’s hard to argue that, from the moment Elvis Presley first took to Ed Sullivan’s stage on September 9, 1956, it changed societal norms.
Music historians and rock writers can quibble about the origin of rock and roll (and they’d be right to do so). But Presley’s introduction saw a cultural shift unlike anything on television or radio before.
His rise sparked an uprising in the 1960s, both political and cultural. Forty-three years after the King of Rock and Roll died in his upstairs bathroom at Graceland mansion in Memphis, Tennessee, the impact of his career still has a tremendous impact on entertainment and the music industry.
With more than 1 billion units sold, 129 charted albums, and a collected 67 weeks on the top of those charts, Elvis left an unprecedented legacy in his wake.
So, too, linger the questions surrounding his untimely passing.
While conspiracy theorists occasionally grace the tabloids, linking his death to everything from Bigfoot to UFOs, there are still some legitimate questions revolving around his death.
It’s likely, as with many deaths from yesteryear, that the mystery will always remain – but it still appeals to even the casual fan and devoted skeptic many years down the line.
The Straight Facts
On January 8, 1935, Elvis Aron Presley was born in a small house, no bigger than a remote cabin, in Tupelo, Mississippi.
On July 18, 1953, he walked into Sun Records and paid $3.98 to record two demos, under a ruse that he was doing it as a gift for his grandma.
It wasn’t long before the rest of his storied life became well-documented history.
His rise, stumble, and comeback are all fascinating parts of his legacy. However, his final hours are less clear.
In 2014, his then-girlfriend Ginger Alden opened up in a memoir about her time with the King.