Elvis Presley, the cultural icon whose hip-swaying performance on the Ed Sullivan Show changed the face of rock music, died on this date in 1977, thirty-nine years ago. He was only 42, and died of a heart attack following a struggle with addiction to prescription drugs.
Known for his rockabilly on-stage presence, the kid from Tupelo, Mississippi became known as “The King of Rock and Roll” or simply “The King.” He took over the music world in 1956 with his first single, “Heartbreak Hotel,” followed by his film debut the same year in “Love Me Tender.” Years after his death, Elvis remains the best-selling solo artist in the history of the recording industry, with estimated record sales worldwide exceeding 600 million.
What is not well known about the star is that he had a big heart and a deep faith in God. Elvis is quoted as saying,
“I ain’t no saint, but I’ve tried never to do anything that would hurt my family or offend God … I figure all any kid needs is hope and the feeling he or she belongs. If I could do or say anything that would give some kid that feeling, I would believe I had contributed something to the world.”
Elvis’ contributions include several deeply spiritual songs, including a song about the Rosary. Here, the heartthrob delivers a breathtaking performance of his 1966 gospel song “How Great Thou Art.”
Image: By Ollie Atkins, chief White House photographer at the time. See ARC record.