The post title is in honor of Elvis Presley, who checked out 36 years ago today, when he was five years younger than I am now. I remember hearing the news en route to football practice, and spending the next few days hearing the last single he released before his death over and over and over.
I wasn’t a big Elvis fan, because in the three or four years I had been paying serious attention to music, he was already a cabaret act. John Lennon’s death hit me much harder three years later. As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate Elvis’s early stuff quite a lot, enough to hate how he was essentially ruined by the Colonel and the industry — although it was well compensated ruin, for which some things may be said, I guess.
Most years, I teach Robinson’s “Richard Cory” to my freshpeeps (who are moving in today, by the way, and for whom Elvis, John Lennon, and likely Kurt Cobain have always been dead.) As part of that, I ask them to write a little bit about Richard Corys they’ve known, or known about, anyway. Michael Jackson comes up a lot, but so do Elvis and Kurt. It’s interesting to me how Presley has become a sort of multivalent symbol, for excess, for a liberation from prudery (good or bad, depending on the speaker), for a cultlike legion of fans (who themselves seem to have become a symbol for declasse vulgar Americana), and so on and so on. And he seems to maintain symbolic cachet for my students. Not bad for an oddball kid from Mississippi, to become a kind of archetype.
I’ll be running around for the next few days, so posting will be intermittent, but if I have anything to say, I’ll drop in. Have a great weekend.