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Elvis: The Dead Years

A mutton-chopped Presley, wearing a long velour jacket and a giant buckle like that of a boxing championship belt, shakes hands with a balding man wearing a suit and tie. They are facing camera and smiling. Five flags hang from poles directly behind them.
By Ollie Atkins, chief White House photographer at the time. See ARC record. – White House photograph by Ollie Atkins via http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/nixon-met-elvis/, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39264

So I was drinking beers with the gents last week, and someone remarked that it was the 49th39th anniversary of the King’s death.  The gentleman suggested that, with a wiser mix of alcohol, pharmaceuticals, and peanut and banana sandwiches, Presley might have enjoyed several more productive decades.  This claim was met by a range of responses that ran from beer-spitting disbelief to respectful silence; the consensus view in this group seemed to be that Presley’s creative years were behind him at least several years before his untimely demise, and that there probably wasn’t much of any interest left in the tank.

It occurred to me later that the picture could be much more complicated than this.  Johnny Cash is perhaps the most interesting comp; he had a two decade or so fallow period before doing some of his most interesting work with Rick Rubin.  The case for the prosecution could rest on Frank Sinatra, who gave up not only on interesting music but also on demanding acting in the latter part of his career.

Thoughts from those more familiar than I with Presley’s career?  Was there any prospect for him to produce something of interest in the 1980s or 1990s? Directions that he might have gone, people he might have worked with?


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