Elvis: 40 years since the death of ‘the King’

Tributes and momentoes are seen next to the grave marker for Elvis Presley in the Meditation Garden where he is buried alongside his parents and grandmother at his Graceland mansion on August 12, 2017 in Memphis, Tennessee. Elvis Presley, American icon and King of rock n roll, transformed popular culture, sold over a billion records and is idolized as ever on the 40th anniversary of his tragic death. His Graceland mansion in Memphis, Tennessee -- the second most famous home in the United States after the White House -- expects more than 50,000 people to descend for the biggest ever annual celebration of his life 40 years after his death aged 42 on August 16, 1977. (AFP)
Updated 13 August 2017
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Elvis: 40 years since the death of ‘the King’

MEMPHIS, USA: Elvis Presley, American icon and King of rock ‘n’ roll, transformed popular culture, sold over a billion records and is idolized as ever on the 40th anniversary of his tragic death.
His Graceland mansion in Memphis, Tennessee — the second most famous home in the United States after the White House — expects more than 50,000 people to descend for the biggest ever annual celebration of his life 40 years after his death aged 42 on August 16, 1977.
Presley is considered the best selling artist of all time, shifting an estimated billion records. In 2016, Forbes ranked him fourth highest earning dead celebrity at $27 million, still moving a million albums.
“He is the only person of modern times who is instantly recognizable throughout the world by his first name,” said British author and artist Ted Harrison, who has written two books about Presley.
“Say ‘Elvis’ in Beijing, Nicaragua, Estonia or Fiji and you get an immediate recognition across language and culture,” he told AFP.
His unique voice and style blended R&B, blues, country, gospel and black music, challenging social and racial barriers at the time, and earning him the nickname “Elvis the Pelvis” for his gyrating moves.
Oozing style, charisma and naked sex appeal, he was the fantasy of millions of women and inspired everyone who came after him, from The Beatles to The Rolling Stones to today’s chart-topper Bruno Mars.
“Hearing him for the first time was like busting out of jail,” Bob Dylan has said.
In the late 1960s, the composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein called him “the greatest cultural force in the 20th century.”
Hits such as “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock” and “Are You Lonesome Tonight” are instantly recognizable. His music has been reissued and repackaged countless times since his death.
More than 20 million people have visited Graceland, his home for 20 years, after Priscilla, his ex-wife and mother of his only child Lisa Marie, opened it to the public in 1982.
The estate says it pulls in 600,000 visitors a year and contributes around $150 million a year to the Memphis economy. Neither is it showing any sign of slowing down.
In March, it opened a brand-new $45 million entertainment complex and hotel spread across 40 acres.
Die-hard fans are often moved to tears at his gravesite at Graceland, where he is interred next to his beloved parents, Gladys and Vernon, and grandmother Minnie Mae, covered in flowers, tributes and mementos.
“It gives you that fire,” said Stephanie Harris, 42, from Michigan who sells life insurance. “His music is transcendent to our generation because there’s nothing like the ‘Hound Dog’ baby.”
In downtown Memphis, home of the blues, you can buy everything Elvis — from Christmas tree decorations to luggage. Cardboard Elvis cutouts greet you outside bars and his music blares out of loudspeakers.
“He’s the celebrity of all celebrities,” said Lisa Bseiso, 36, who set up The Official Elvis Presley Fan Club of Qatar, the Middle Eastern kingdom where she was born and raised.
“Forty years after his death, that’s why he’s a phenomenon. He’s still as powerful, as loving.”
Born to a truck driver father and sewing-machine operator in a two-room house in Tupelo, Mississippi, on January 8, 1935, Presley grew up an only child after his brother was stillborn.
In 1948, he and his parents moved to Memphis, he graduated high school, cut his first record aged 19 and became an almost instant star.
As an early rebel whose hip-swiveling, pulsating leg-tapping had conservatives up in arms, his music also crossed the racial divide in a South where the specter of segregation still loomed large.
“Far more worrying to many white Americans was the way he took African-American music and presented it mainstream,” says Harrison.
Then came a two-year stint in the US Army during the Cold War, he was shipped off to West Germany, promoted to sergeant and after leaving the military turned into a respectable family entertainer.
But if he embodied the American dream — the poor boy made good who doted on his parents and liked to buy Cadillacs for strangers off the street on a whim — he also personified American excess.
He became a total recluse, abusing a dizzying array of prescription pills, overate, becoming a bloated shadow of his once lithe self in declining health and plagued by poor management.
His last live performance was on June 25, 1977, in Indianapolis and on August 16, 1977, the day before his next scheduled concert, he was found dead in his bathroom.


France gives World Cup winners a heroes’ welcome home

Updated 16 July 2018
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France gives World Cup winners a heroes’ welcome home

  • Commentators have focused on the outpouring of patriotism and sense of national unity created by the multi-ethnic French team
  • Some analysts believe the 40-year-old centrist Macron will benefit from the feelgood factor sweeping France

PARIS: The World Cup-winning French team returned home to a heroes’ welcome on Monday, parading down the Champs-Elysees as hundreds of thousands of cheering fans gave a raucous welcome to the country’s newest idols.
France overcame a determined Croatia to win 4-2 in Sunday’s final in Russia, with teenager Kylian Mbappe applying the coup de grace and cementing his place as a new global superstar at the age of just 19.
Millions of fans in France then celebrated into the night, honking car horns and flying the tricolor flag while the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe were lit up in the national colors of blue, white and red.
Crowds began converging early Monday on the Champs-Elysees, the gathering point for all national celebrations, to catch a glimpse of a returning squad which has captured the country’s imagination.
“We’re so proud of this team, they have truly become our players,” said Priscilla Lagneaux, 28, as she waited under a wilting sun on the avenue. “We had to see them.”
As the celebrating players descended on an open-air bus under heavy police guard — some of the 2,000 officers deployed in the capital — nine jets from the Patrouille de France, the air force’s acrobatic unit, did an honorary flyover trailing blue, white and red smoke.
Commentators have focused on the outpouring of patriotism and sense of national unity created by the multi-ethnic French team, many of whose stars including Mbappe and Paul Pogba hail from deprived and often overlooked suburbs of Paris.
Laurent Joffrin, editor of the leftwing Liberation newspaper, said they had lived up to the ideal of “the republic that we love: united and diverse, patriotic and open, national without being nationalist.”
After leaving the Champs-Elysees, the players quickly changed into custom-made blue suits before being welcomed at the Elysee Palace by President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte, who were also decked out in blue for the occasion.
Macron has already promised the Legion of Honour for the victors’ “exceptional services” to the country, an award already given to the legendary team which won France’s first World Cup title in 1998.
The first couple then posed with the team as they sang the Marseillaise national anthem and waved scarves for a joyous group photo, before heading inside for a private meeting.
“Thanks to you all!” Macron told the team after gathering again outside. “This team is beautiful because you are united!“
Despite a voice nearly failing him, Pogba then proved himself a showman off the field as well as on by leading the guests in an impromptu celebratory rap punctuated by “Allez les Bleus!“
“It’s true, we went on the pitch, and we said, We’re going to crush them all!” he said.
Nearly 3,000 guests have been invited to the reception in the Elysee gardens, including around 1,000 youths from local football clubs such as Bondy, the gritty Paris suburb whose towering housing projects produced Mbappe.
“We’re going to say thank you!” said Sacha, one of the young players at the palace. “I don’t regret not going on vacation this summer.”
Afterwards guests will be treated to the beats of DJ Snake, who has worked with pop stars including Lady Gaga and is part of the Pardon My French collective of French DJs.
Macron had already celebrated with the team on Sunday — even doing “dab” dance moves with players in a video that has gone viral — after attending the final in Moscow.
Some analysts believe the 40-year-old centrist will benefit from the feelgood factor sweeping France, with Macron able to show a common touch after months of criticism from his opponents that he is distant and elitist.
Later the team will attend a dinner in their honor at the posh Hotel du Crillon.
In Paris, the metro system has temporarily renamed six of its stations in honor of the key players, with the Victor Hugo stop — named after the famed 19th-century writer — becoming Victor Hugo Lloris after the team’s goalkeeper.
Two stations were rebaptised in tribute to Deschamps, who captained the national side to its first World Cup victory, won on home soil in 1998.
“There are two things that matter — one is that these 23 players are now together for life, whatever happens, and also that from now on they will not be the same again, because they are world champions,” a champagne-soaked Deschamps said Sunday.
Macron will be relieved that joyous and occasionally chaotic celebrations across France on Sunday night passed off without any major incident following a string of terror attacks in France since 2015 that have claimed nearly 250 lives.
There were 292 people arrested nationwide and isolated clashes between police and rowdy crowds in Paris, Lyon and Marseille.
For Croatia, a country of just four million people, the loss was bitter but their fans took solace in the best run in the nation’s history, which featured a stunning win against Argentina and a semifinal victory against England.
“Thank you, heroes! — You gave us everything!” read the Sportske Novosti front page. “’Vatreni’ (the “Fiery Ones” in Croatian), you are the biggest, you are our pride, your names will remain written in gold forever!” the newspaper said.