On August 16, 1977, Elvis Presley died in Memphis, Tennessee. Born in Tupelo, Mississippi in 1935, Elvis first earned his living as a mechanic and furniture repairman who occasionally played cowboy ballads on the guitar at parties. But somehow Elvis reinvented himself and became the archetypal rock ‘n’ roll superstar, revered more as the modern day reincarnation of the Greek god Dionysius than a mere mortal. His funeral caused such an outpouring of hysteria and that two people died in the chaos and many more were injured. There was even a bizarre plot at the time to kidnap Elvis’ corpse and hold it for ransom. And, of course, some people claim he never died at all. American composer Michael Daughtery has taken pop icons like Elvis as the inspiration for a number of his concert works. He has even written a bassoon concerto titled “Dead Elvis” — a set of variations on the Dies Irae theme from the Latin Mass for the Dead. In performance, the composer asks that the soloist enter in the familiar costume of Las Vegas Elvis — sunglasses and a rhinestone-encrusted white jumpsuit with a plunging, open, neckline. Hip gyrations are optional. Michael Daugherty writes: “Elvis is a part of American culture, history, and mythology, for better or for worse. If you want to understand American and all its riddles, sooner or later you have to deal with Elvis.”
Leibovitz made many other poignant photos, including ones of his gleaming silver Harley, his mother Gladys's closet with the vintage patterned cotton dresses still hanging in, it and his grandmother Minnie Mae's dressing table with her cat's eye sunglasses. The tv, below, which he shot in frustration in the 1970s, is kept in a storeroom.
Elvis Thru the Years: Special Anniversary Edition.
Below: Elvis's Harley Davidson, by Leibovitz.
Here's another sort of Elvis visual: a depiction of his eyewear from the zoomable chart of celebrity glasses created by Brooklyn's Pop Chart Lab.