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Forty years ago, America was shocked by the death of Elvis

Ⓒ INP/AFP/Archives – – | Elvis Presley in concert in Memphis, January 1, 1955

On August 16, 1977, Elvis Presley was found unconscious in his villa in Memphis, Tennessee. His death is found in the hospital, rock has just lost his first superstar.

The “King” is struck by a heart attack at 42 years. The rumor first reported an overdose, while one of his former bodyguards described Elvis as “drugged and paranoid” in an interview recorded a few hours before his death.

– Recovery and fainting –

On August 17th, thousands of people gathered around the “Graceland Mansion”, the star’s property, to pay tribute and try to catch a glimpse of the legendary showman in semi-retirement since 1972.

On an Elvis Presley Boulevard filled with people, the emotional cocktail, overwhelming heat and scrambling causes dozens of fainting and ambulance intervention.

For only two hours, anonymous fans are allowed to bow to the copper coffin of the “King of Rock”.

Ⓒ AFP – MANDEL NGAN – | The Flowery and Decorated Tomb of Elvis Presley in Memphis, Tennessee, August 12, 2017

They lay, in tears, bouquets of red roses in front of Elvis, dressed in a cream colored costume, a blue shirt and a silver tie.

In Washington, the White House receives hundreds of telephone calls to demand a day of national mourning.

“No death, since that of former President John Fitzgerald Kennedy (14 years ago, ed), has so moved the American people,” writes a couple of Californians in a telegram addressed to Jimmy Carter.

The president paid tribute that very day to the singer “unique and irreplaceable” which symbolized “the vitality, the spirit of rebellion and the good humor” of the United States.

– Record dealers –

Throughout the country the record stores are being robbed. “In Charleston, West Virginia, two women have even come close to acquiring Elvis’ latest album, Moody Blue +,” AFP reported.

In one day 250,000 copies of the album are sold out. The press workshops are activated night and day to feed the fans bulimia, while the “King” had already sold more than 500 million records during his lifetime.

On the night of August 17th to 18th, all the hotels display full in Memphis, when about 200 irreducible cranes stand in front of the villa. Two of them are overthrown by a drunk driver.

Haggard eyes, a fan does not find sleep near the gate, where two Elvis wrought iron, guitar in hand, surrounded by mortuary wreaths.

“When I heard of his death, I felt the most horrible pain in my life, like a stab wound that would have carried away a large part of myself”, tells the AFP special correspondent who owns near 300 vinyls of the star.

– John Wayne and Burt Reynolds –

In the early hours of 3 to 5,000 admirers gather in front of the property, some wearing T-shirts and flags bearing the image of their idol.

The journalists present – a hundred – are kept slightly apart by bodyguards “with showy elegance and ostentatious jewelry” that seem to mark the end of a “caid”, notes the special envoy of the ” AFP.

The funeral begins with a small Baptist office in Graceland. The crowd had to be content in the afternoon with the procession of a funeral van and fifteen white Cadillacs, the favorite color of the deceased.

The body of Elvis Presley is driven on the boulevard which bears his name to join a few kilometers more to the north the cemetery of Forest Hills.

The “King” is buried in the pink marble family mausoleum near his mother, in front of some fifty people, including his family, rare intimate friends and celebrities such as the actors John Wayne and Burt Reynolds.

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