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This Year is the 40th Anniversary of Elvis Presley's Death

Elvis Presley performing "Burning Love" in the 1970s. Screenshot via YouTube / ElvisPresleyVEVO

Back in the 1950s it was rarer than it is even now for music stars to be known simply by one name. But one music legend who achieved it was the boy from Tulepo, Elvis Aaron Presley—or simply: Elvis.

He is the King of Rock and Roll and this year is the 40th anniversary of his death at the tender age of 42, on 16th August 1977. The King died in his bathroom (not on the toilet as legend dictates but near it) at Graceland, his mansion on a 13.8 acre estate in Memphis where he lived for over 20 years.

According to his doctor, Dr. Nick Nichopoulos, he died of chronic constipation. But debate surrounds exactly what caused his heart attack, be it weight, the drugs he was taking, or constipation—or a combination of all three.

Elvis combing his hair in the men's room in the Mosque Theater, Richmond, Virginia in 1956. © Alfred Wertheimer

What can’t have helped was the fact that he was known to jump in his private jet and travel 1000-odd miles to Denver for an 8,000 calorie sandwich called the Fool’s Gold Loaf. The sandwich, which has now become culinary legend, was made by a Denver restaurant called the Colorado Mine Company and consisted of a hollowed out loaf of bread filled with a jar of peanut butter, a jar of grape jelly (or jam), and a pound of bacon.

The story of the sandwich comes from the book The Life and Cuisine of Elvis Presley by David Adler where it recounts a midnight sandwich run by Elvis and his buddies where they took his jet and bought and ate 30 of the sandwiches. They supposedly flew all that way and didn’t even leave the airport hangar when they arrived, having had the sandwiches brought to them which they washed down with Perrier water and champagne. After two hours they jumped back on the plane and flew back.

Elvis Presley taking a nap in July 1956 on the Southern Railroad between Chattanooga, heading towards Memphis, Tennessee, his home. © Alfred Wertheimer

When Elvis' death was announced US flags on official buildings in Memphis were flown at half mast the following day, and many fans travelled to Graceland to see him in his casket. Two days after his death a hearse drove his embalmed body through the city and thousands lined the streets.

Elvis was laid to rest at the Meditation Garden at Graceland, located at 3764 Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee. The site is now a pilgrimage point for fans.

In a recent biography of Elvis by Life magazine, LIFE Remembering Elvis Presley: The King Lives On, they note of the two Elvis’ that people remember, “The mid 1950s [Elvis], in all his marvelous, hip-swiveling virility, belting out ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ or ‘Don’t Be Cruel’ or another in the sudden outpouring of hit songs that reframed popular music then and forever.”

And the other Elvis from the 1970s, “bloated by all he had consumed, in that studded white jumpsuit, singing ‘Suspicious Minds’, perhaps, or Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’, sweat descending in rivulets down his changed familiar face, eyes closed, and still with that voice, deep and melancholy and free of constraint.”  

But concluding that “Elvis at the start and Elvis to the end” was “Beautiful, brilliant, and true.”

Check out Elvis performing “Bridge Over Trouble Water” below.

Rockarchive is delighted to be able to offer these iconic Elvis Presley images as limited edition photographic prints which you can buy here.