Bright light city gonna set my soul…gonna set my soul on fire

August 16, 2007

Sound familiar? It should. That’s the first two lines of Viva Las Vegas, just one of many songs immortalized by The King, Elvis Presley. Elvis died 30 years ago today, August 16, 1977. He was 42.

As a kid who was all of 13 at the time, I remember thinking that while he wasn’t as old as my grandpa, Elvis had actually lived a pretty long life. Today I am 43. I feel differently.

In some respects, 30 years has gone by in the blink of an eye. Sometime in the mid-eighties we gave up thinking that Elvis was actually in hiding. At some point in the 90’s, Michael Jackson stepped up to try and fill the void left by Elvis, but seemed to focus a little too much on the children. After we partied like it was 1999, the century turned and still no one stepped in to fill the void. Will there ever be another bona fide Icon known the world over? I doubt it.

This morning I got to thinking about Elvis and how the world might look to him if he were to come out of hiding today, 30 years later.

In 1977, the top news item was Jimmy Carter pardoning the draft evaders. Back then you would have found out about that from Walter Cronkite on the CBS news. Were there to be a breaking story today, Elvis would get it in real-time on his Blackberry. This is not a slam on Katie Couric.

One of the most popular songs of 1977 was “Rich Girl”, by Daryl Hall and John Oates. To listen to that song and perhaps “Blinded By the Light”, by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, Elvis would have used his console television which included a turntable AND stereo to listen. Today Elvis would go to the iTunes store without even getting off the couch.

The most popular show back in 1977 was Laverne & Shirley on ABC. Today the question is, would Elvis use his TiVo and get a season pass? Would Elvis opt not to get a TiVo and go to ABC.com? Hard to say. One thing I do know is that Elvis would still watch local Memphis television affiliates: WPTY (ABC), WMC (NBC) and WREG (CBS) down in the Jungle room, most likely with rabbit ears…

Star Wars was the most popular movie in 1977. I’m guessing Elvis rented out entire theatres, bought his entourage shiny new Cadillacs and off they went to the movies. Today Elvis would have converted the Jungle room into a home theater but, interestingly, he would most likely still take his buds to the theater for new releases. I for one subscribe to the notion that theaters will be around for many generations to come.

Finally, as usual, 1977 was the year of the Yankees. Elvis would have chartered a jet and then sat right behind home plate as the Yanks beat the Dodgers 4-games-to-2 in the World Series. During the season he might have seen a sprinkling of games on network television and he may have watched Monday Night Baseball. Today Elvis would simply logon to MLB.com and watch all of his favorite baseball teams online; that way he’d have quick access to peanut butter and nanner sandwiches instead of hotdogs…

Thirty years without the King. Different? Politicians are still politicians. Music is still popular. We still love sitcoms. Popcorn is still better at the theatre and the Yankees are still a powerhouse. I guess nothing really has changed…