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Other Electro. European Movies. TV Shows. Sound Library. World Music. African Traditional. Indian Ocean. Others South American Traditional. West Indies. Presley was no longer a controversial figure; he had become one more predictable mass entertainer, a personage of virtually no interest to the rock audience that had expanded so much with the advent of the new sounds of the Beatles , the Rolling Stones , and Dylan.
By the changes in the music world had overtaken Presley—both movie grosses and record sales had fallen. In December his one-man Christmas TV special aired; a tour de force of rock and roll and rhythm and blues , it restored much of his dissipated credibility.
He also began doing concerts again and quickly won back a sizable following, although it was not nearly as universal as his audience in the s—in the main, it was Southern and Midwestern, working-class and unsophisticated, and overwhelmingly female. For much of the next decade, he was again one of the top live attractions in the United States.
For a variety of reasons, he never performed outside North America. Presley was now a mainstream American entertainer, an icon but not so much an idol. He had married in without much furor, became a parent with the birth of his daughter, Lisa Marie, in , and got divorced in He made no more movies, although there was a good concert film, Elvis on Tour. His recordings were of uneven quality, but on each album he included a song or two that had focus and energy. But, thanks to the concerts, spectaculars best described by critic Jon Landau as an apotheosis of American musical comedy , he remained a big money earner.
He now lacked the ambition and power of his early work, but that may have been a good thing—he never seemed a dated relic of the s trying to catch up to trends but was just a performer, unrelentingly himself. However, Presley had also developed a lethal lifestyle. Spending almost all his time when not on the road in Graceland , his Memphis estate actually just a big Southern colonial house decorated somewhere between banal modernity and garish faux-Vegas opulence , he lived nocturnally, surrounded by sycophants and stuffed with greasy foods and a variety of prescription drugs.
His shows deteriorated in the final two years of his life, and his recording career came to a virtual standstill. Presley never seemed confident in his status, never entirely certain that he would not collapse back into sharecropper poverty, and, as a result, he seems to have become immobilized; the man who had risked everything, including potential ridicule, to make himself a success now lived in the lockstep regimen of an addict and recluse.
Finally, in the summer of , the night before he was to begin yet another concert tour, he died of a heart attack brought on largely by drug abuse. He was 42 years old. Almost immediately upon hearing of his death, mourners from around the world gathered at Graceland to say farewell to the poor boy who had lived out the American dream.
Each August crowds flock to Graceland to honour him on the anniversary not of his birth but of his death. From time to time rumours cropped up that he did not really die, that his death was a fake designed to free him from fame. Elvis impersonators are legion. His biggest fans—working-class white women, almost exclusively—passed their fanaticism on to their children, or at least to a surprising number of daughters.
Once more, Elvis Presley is triumphant, although this triumph is shadowed by something far less than happiness.
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