January 8 is the 84th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s birth and I highly recommend that you search your television listings on that date for the documentary “Elvis- That’s the way it is”. The 1970 film chronicles Elvis Presley’s return to live performing following a seven-year break. The film takes you into the rehearsals as well as the pulsating first concert.

Three years after his return, Elvis made television history when his “Aloha from Hawaii” concert special was beamed to 1.5 billion people across the globe. (more viewers than Neil Armstrong’s moon landing). My college friends and I gathered at the house of the classmate who had the biggest screen (possibly 17 inches!). Under the influence of a variety of intoxicants we goofed on Elvis and how he was so less cool than The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, or Jerry Garcia.

Thirty years later, I viewed “Elvis- That’s the way it is” and my opinion of “The King” changed forever. In addition to the peerless voice and amazing showmanship, I was struck by his humanity- the way he interacts with everyone from band members to bodyguards. And then there is the incredible joy that he brought to his fans. It’s tragic that this extraordinary man had inner demons that would take him away from the world, way too soon.

His Humanity
Elvis never forgot his roots. Soon after he became a household name, he began donating to a myriad of charities. He played free concerts and lent his name to a wide variety of organizations including the American Cancer Society and the March of Dimes. There are hundreds of stories of his handing out cash to strangers and many anecdotes of Elvis buying Cadillacs for friends and casual acquaintances.
Perhaps what says it all is that when Elvis was drafted into the Army at the height of his fame, he chose to enlist as a regular soldier rather than negotiate a cushier deal such as serving in an entertainment unit.

Elvis fun facts
Elvis recorded over 600 songs but wrote none of them. Elvis holds the records for most British number-one hits (21) and top-ten hits (76).Despite world-wide adulation,

Presley played only five concerts outside the U.S., all on a three-day tour of Canada in 1957. His manager, Colonel Tom Parker passed up many lucrative offers because in actuality he was a Dutch illegal immigrant named Andreas Cornelis van Kuijk.  If Parker applied for a U.S. passport he would have been deported.

Presley’s hair was inspired by Robert Mitchum. When Elvis was 22, Mitchum convinced him to take the role of his younger brother in the classic, “Thunder Road”. Unfortunately, Colonel Parker demanded a king’s ransom for the engagement prompting Mitchum to give the role to his actual son, James.  

The King attracted many beautiful women including girlfriends Cybill Shepherd, Ann-Margret Natalie Wood and Peggy Lipton. 

After joining the army in Germany, Elvis began studying Karate with two of world’s top Shotokan Karate stylists. After returning to the U.S. he continued training and in 1974 earned his 8th Degree Black Belt. His instructor, Master Kang Rhee observed “Elvis was very humble. He taught me more than I taught him. He insisted on training and teaching with other students”. Elvis and Priscilla Presley separated in 1972 after she disclosed her relationship with Mike Stone, a karate instructor Elvis had introduced to her. 

Freddie Mercury wrote “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” as a tribute to Elvis. Befitting his last name, Mercury completed the composition in only ten minutes.   It took Elvis, the perfectionist 31 takes to record “Hound Dog.” In contrast, John Lennon recorded Twist and Shout in one take. (He had a sore throat and could only give it one attempt). While Barry White was in prison, he became enthralled with Elvis’ single “It’s Now or Never”. That song inspired Barry to pursue a music career.   

Elvis always wore a cross, the Star of David and a Hebrew Chai symbol around his neck so he wouldn’t “miss out on heaven due to a technicality”. R.I.P. Elvis.
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