On August 16, 2007, 70,000 Elvis fans gathered at Graceland, the Presley family’ home in Memphis. They were re there for the 30th anniversary of the death of the King of Rock and Roll. But a small minority of devoted Elvis fans did not travel to Tennessee. ‘It’s not his anniversary,’ they insisted, ‘because he’s not dead.’
The Memphis coroner disagreed. According to his report, Elvis Aaron Presley, aged 42, was found unconscious on the bathroom floor of Graceland on August 16, 1977. He was officially pronounced dead at 3:30 pm at Baptist Memorial Hospital. The cause of death was cardiac arrhythmia.
Heart failure? At forty-two?
The news shocked fans. Heart failure? At forty-two? How had that happened? Sure, the singer’s weight problems were well known — Elvis frequently joked about them on stage. Few, however, realised the scale of his over-eating. Nor were they aware of his addiction to prescription drugs, administered by five different doctors, or the physical impact of his brutal Las Vegas work schedule — two shows nightly for months on end.
As the details of the King’s final years emerged, most accepted that his sad end was entirely explicable. But a determined minority refused to believe the official story.
Sceptics pointed to alleged signs of a sinister cover-up — the mysterious disappearance of the autopsy report, the unusual bank transfers shortly before he ‘died’.
Then there was the strangely prophetic remarks Elvis made in one of his final concerts: ‘I don’t look very good now, but I will look good in my coffin.’ Was this a secret message? Perhaps the King was warning fans that he was close to death? Or was this a clue that Elvis was about fake his demise? If so, why?
There were several theories as to why Elvis might have faked his won death. One was that Elvis wanted to escape his fame and return to a simple life. Another was that he was hiding from the Mafia in a FBI witness protection programme.
Or perhaps he was working as an undercover drugs agent for the government.? Or as a CIA spy? Some even suggested extra-terrestrial involvement: ‘Aliens Kidnap the King.’ as one headline had it.
Repeated ‘sightings’ of a back-from-the-dead Elvis fuelled the conspiracy theories.
The most believable theory involved Presley’s manager ‘Colonel’ Tom Parker. Parker had a history of faking things — including the story of his own life. ‘I come from West Virginia,’ the Dutch illegal immigrant had told the press. ‘I ran away from home to join my Uncle’s circus.’
Parker had brilliantly stage-managed his star’s career. He reinvented Elvis several times: from wild rock ‘n roll star to film star to Las Vegas cabaret act. The Colonel even made Elvis join the army to improve record sales. And dying young certainly sent Presley records rocketing back up the charts
Had Colonel Parker fooled the world again? Not according to a c l o s e Presley family friend and pallbearer at the funeral. ‘That was Elvis in the coffin,’ he said.
Elvis Presley died in 1977. His music lives on.
© 2017 Text Kieran McGovern. Taken From the ESOL Skills Practice Pack
Quick Check Comprehension
a. Elvis ofﬁcially died of heart failure
b. There was no autopsy
c. Elvis joked about his own death
d. Elvis Presley died in August 1977
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