Elvis Presley: Fans gather at Graceland for funeral in 1977
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Elvis Presley died on August 16, 1977. The star died of cardiac arrest after months of abusing his body with fatty foods, alcohol, and alleged drug use. In the final year of his life, Elvis played seven years of residency shows in Las Vegas where he sang his heart out for the last time – unbeknownst to him. Four years after his death, in 1981, a documentary was released about his life titled This Is Elvis.
The heart-wrenching film portrayed the rise and fall of Elvis over his final years alive.
Not only did it delve into his alcohol abuse, it also included some footage of his Las Vegas shows.
Nick Cave, the singer from Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, spoke candidly about how this documentary affected him in a pronounced way.
The Australian singer, who released such hit songs as Red Right Hand and Into My Arms, recalled on his website that the film included footage of Elvis before he died, footage that left him feeling devastated by the star’s “mortified” look.
He said: “In the final minutes of the film, we see Elvis, on stage in Las Vegas, sing the famous so-called Laughing Version of Are You Lonesome Tonight? The camera begins with a long shot and does a slow zoom in on Elvis’ face.”
Nick continued: “Elvis is stoned and overweight and by the time he performs the disastrous central monologue, we can see the pure anguish of his performance.
“The drugged and mortified eyes, the terrible aloneness, the horror of the moment. his vast soul crucified on the cross of his own body as he blunders through the words.
“It is one of the most traumatic pieces of footage I have ever seen.”
The “laughing version” of Are You Lonesome Tonight? shows Elvis almost delirious on stage.
He ad-libbed a number of lyrics throughout the second half of the song, before bursting into uncontrollable laughter at his own words.
This human moment became a hit in the UK when the Laughing Version reached number 25 on the UK Singles Chart.
His original recording of Are You Lonesome Tonight? did far better, however. It reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 list.
Elvis Presley stars in trailer for Double Trouble in 1967
The track stayed atop the charts for 16 weeks.
Are You Lonesome Tonight? was not Elvis’ song, however. He recorded a cover of the track of the same name by Charles Hart.
Elvis’ time in his Las Vegas concert residency is still the longest time held by any artist.
He played 636 consecutive shows in the Las Vegas Hilton from July 1969 through to December, 1976.
Just nine months after his residency came to an end, Elvis was dead.
The star was at his home, Graceland, with his new fiancée Ginger Alden, when he was found dead in his bathroom.
The singer was 42-years-old at the time.
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