“Thank You Very Much”: Celebrating Elvis Presley’s 87th Birthday

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If you asked people to list their favorite rock ‘n’ roll musicians of all time, Elvis Presley might be the first choice for millions of individuals across the globe. He was one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, entertaining audiences with his animated dance moves, smoldering good looks and one-of-a-kind sound.

January 8, 2022, is Elvis’ 87th birthday. We’re looking back at his illustrious career and we’re exploring several fascinating facts about his life to celebrate the occasion.

“Follow That Dream” – Elvis’ Origins

It’s hard to believe that some people didn’t recognize Elvis Presley’s true potential. However, in school, Elvis’ music teacher told him he was “merely average.” His fellow classmates even teased him for playing what they called “hillbilly music.” No one imagined Elvis would grow up to be an iconic musician.

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The teasing and discouragement might be why Elvis was a shy performer as a kid, although you probably wouldn’t know that based on his confident performances as an adult. For a time, the “All Shook Up” singer truly thought he wasn’t good enough when he was younger. This was only exacerbated by the public backlash he faced early in his career.

When Elvis made a name for himself in the 1950s, many older individuals disliked his sexualized dance moves and antics on stage. Teenage girls attended his shows in droves, while their parents made a ludicrous comparison to Hitler. Yes, you read that right. Many people compared Elvis’ performances and the loyal fans who attended them to Adolf Hitler’s rallies. Nevertheless, Elvis overcame all the criticism and became a legend in his own right.

“All Shook Up” – Elvis’ Struggles With His Apperance

Besides his rock ‘n’ roll music, Elvis Presley is known for his signature style. Fans loved his shiny black hair, and they assumed it was his natural hair color, but that’s not the case. Like Lucille Ball with her iconic red hair, Elvis achieved his shiny black hair with a bottle of hair dye.

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Elvis was actually born with blond hair. He started dying his hair black as a young teenager to achieve an “edgy” look. He later confessed he used black shoe polish to get the job done. Elvis’ hairstylist, Larry Geller, commented, “Elvis had everything. He was an extraordinary human being. He had the greatest eyes, the greatest voice, fans galore. He also had great hair.”

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At age 40, Elvis decided to have a facelift, according to his ex-girlfriend, Linda Thompson. Today, celebrities get plastic surgery all the time, but it was a taboo subject in Elvis’ era. The one facelift is allegedly the only surgery he ever underwent to preserve his youthful appearance.

Moreover, Elvis allegedly engaged in a two-week sedation period to lose weight. He also tried a diet where he only ate small portions of food and only left his bed to bathe and use the restroom. Today’s fans find it heartbreaking that Elvis was so self-conscious about aging.

“Guitar Man” – Elvis’ Musical Impact

As Elvis Presley’s fame and success expanded, people all over the world fell in love with his music and wanted to see him perform live in concert. He sold out shows throughout the United States, and fans couldn’t get enough of him singing hits like “Heartbreak Hotel” and “That’s All Right (Mama).” However, his overseas fans were in for an unfortunate disappointment.

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Although Elvis performed in Canada in 1957, he never traveled outside North America to perform. Many theories exist for why he didn’t tour the world, including speculation that his manager didn’t want him to travel overseas. Unfortunately, if you lived outside the United States, you had to appreciate Elvis’ music from afar.

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Incidentally, Elvis Presley’s manager, Colonel Tom Parker, was actually a Dutch immigrant. Born in the Netherlands as Andreas van Kuijk, he moved to the United States and changed his name. When he met Elvis, he recognized the young star’s potential, and the rest is history. The fact that he was foreign never mattered to the rock musician. Parker’s ability to sell his music and his strong persona brought the two together.

To this day, Parker is still considered one of the most successful music managers in the history of entertainment in the United States. He worked diligently to promote Elvis’ name to the public. It clearly worked, and Elvis rewarded his manager on numerous occasions.

“Without Him” – Elvis’ Military Career

Elvis Presley took a break from his music career when he was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1958. This decision earned him a lot of respect from both his admirers and those who disliked his music. When he was drafted, Elvis made one request: to be treated like everyone else.

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He refused an offer to enlist in Special Services, which would have allowed him to entertain soldiers and live in priority housing. Instead, he promised to serve as a regular soldier, and he fulfilled that promise. Many who thought Elvis was a negative cultural influence quickly changed their opinion of the young man. While he was serving overseas, he met someone who would become very important to him.

Photo Courtesy: [Vittoriano Rastelli/Corbis/Getty Images

Shortly after he was drafted into the U.S. Army, Elvis Presley was stationed overseas in Germany. It was there he met Priscilla Wagner Beaulieu, whose stepfather, Paul Beaulieu, was stationed in the country as an officer in the U.S. Air Force.

The couple met at a party, and even though Priscilla was just 14 years old at the time and Elvis was 24, they began a seven-year courtship. It wasn’t easy for Priscilla to date one of the biggest stars in the world, but the couple eventually married on May 1, 1967, at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada

“Love Me Tender” – Elvis’ Marriage With Priscilla

Although Elvis Presley is known to have been a ladies’ man, he wasn’t a celebrity who indulged in multiple marriages. Instead, he was only married to one woman in his life — Priscilla Beaulieu. The couple married in 1967, and they had one child, Lisa Marie Presley, in 1968.

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To many people, it seemed like the Presleys had a perfect marriage. They appeared to be committed and in love with each other, but the relationship was rocky, and their marriage eventually ended in divorce in 1973. One significant reason they divorced was that Elvis no longer showed interest in Priscilla after she gave birth to their daughter. Priscilla commented, “This was not the gentle, understanding man I grew to love.

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Elvis’ growing distance from Priscilla after she gave birth to their daughter wasn’t completely shocking to her. According to Priscilla, “He had mentioned to me before we were married that he had never been able to make love to a woman who had a child.” She never imagined that would apply to his own wife, but it became true after Priscilla delivered Lisa Marie.

Elvis and Priscilla gradually grew apart due to these irreconcilable differences. Priscilla later commented, “I was beginning to doubt my own sexuality as a woman. My physical and emotional needs were unfulfilled.”

“Memories” – Elvis’ Relationship With His Fans

Elvis Presley knew he didn’t earn his success on his own, and he credited Colonel Tom Parker for helping him make it big in the music industry. To thank his manager, Elvis rewarded him as much as 50 percent of his annual earnings throughout his career. He was also known for immense generosity, especially to his family and friends. He also pulled some wild stunts to thank his devoted fans, including pretending to be a law enforcement officer.

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Imagine if you were pulled over for speeding and the officer was none other than Elvis Presley. According to Priscilla Presley, Elvis would sometimes dress up as a law enforcement officer and stop cars on the road. He would give the driver a “ticket,” but it was actually his autograph. Blue Suede Shoes pulled various other stunts to surprise his loyal fans. He performed random acts of kindness, and he never asked for a “thank you” in return.

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In 1970, Elvis Presley decided he wanted to meet President Richard Nixon. When Nixon agreed to the meeting, Elvis had one request: he wanted a federal badge from the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. It was a bizarre request, but Nixon agreed to give him one.

When the two met, Elvis was completely in awe of the Oval Office. The musician told Nixon, “I’m on your side.” While taking photos of their meeting, Elvis surprisingly put his left arm around the president and hugged him. Elvis was an active observer and supporter of politics, but he didn’t discriminate based on someone’s political party affiliations.

“I Believe in the Man in the Sky” – Elvis’ Personal Beliefs

Many people don’t know about Elvis Presley’s childhood growing up in Tupelo, Mississippi. You know about his adult life, but his early family life is a bigger mystery. Elvis was very close to his mother, Gladys Love Presley. They had a strong bond throughout her entire life, and nothing ever broke that special connection.

After achieving success at a young age, Elvis initially purchased his famous Graceland mansion for his parents to live in. After his mother passed away, he couldn’t bear to throw away her clothes and special possessions, so he decided to keep her belongings at Graceland.

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Elvis’ upbringing also influenced his religious beliefs and inspired the gospel songs he recorded throughout his career. He didn’t discuss religion very often, and faith didn’t find its way into his mainstream songs. However, Elvis wanted to make sure he wouldn’t miss out on going to heaven after his inevitable death.

He was fairly obsessed with the topic — to the point of not just picking a single religion. Elvis said he didn’t want to miss out on heaven “due to a technicality,” so he decided to wear a cross, Star of David and the Hebrew word “Chai” around his neck to theoretically cover all his bases. Hopefully, this brought some comfort to the musician

If We Never Meet Again” – Elvis’ Legacy

Elvis Presley passed away on August 16, 1977, from an apparent cardiac arrest. The world was horrified and heartbroken by the shocking news. He was just 42 years old at the time of his death and obviously should have had many more years of life.

Because he was one of the biggest icons of the 20th century, you would expect a big, elaborate funeral to see him off, maybe even a celebration filled with booze, beautiful women and chimpanzees to mirror his life. That wasn’t the case. Only three stars attended the funeral: actors George Hamilton and Ann-Margret and singer James Brown. Of course, family and friends also attended.

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Graceland is perhaps one of the most famous mansions in the United States. After Elvis Presley died, bankers wanted to sell the home. Priscilla Presley disagreed, knowing there was a different way to honor her late ex-husband, as well as solve the mansion’s financial problems.

Priscilla decided opening the mansion to tourists would bring in much more money than selling the home. She knew tourists would want to visit the gorgeous mansion where Elvis had lived. Graceland opened to the public in 1982 and is now a U.S. National Historic Landmark. You can visit the mansion to pay your respects and learn more about Elvis’ history.

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