Elvis Presley was the first American Idol and the epitome of the American Dream. Born in poverty, he and his family lived off the goodwill of friends and family for most of his childhood. As a young man, he had a burning desire to play the guitar and sing. Yet, he was practical and studied to be an electrician and drove a truck to help make money for his family. But he never gave up on his heart’s desire.
At nineteen, he went into Sun Records to cut a record for his mama, which eventually lead to him recording That’s Alright Mama – his first big hit. By twenty-one years of age, he was known as simply Elvis – no last name needed. He was famous, handsome and highly controversial. For the rest of his life he was never able to go out in public because he was so recognizable and popular.
Elvis passed away in 1977. The sad part about his death was how much the press and the public held onto the bad things about him and loved to dwell on them. He was crucified by some of his friends and the press. The drugs, erratic behavior and the weight gain made him a caricature. Those who choose to perpetuate that bloated image and erratic behavior forgot all the good things he did, such as, his contribution to the music industry and love of music. Nor did anybody mentioned the people who lost jobs because he died, the charities that lost donations, or the people he gave so freely to – whether friends or complete strangers. His kindness, simple consideration for others and that fact he was always respectful to everyone was lost to bad press.
Elvis did not live in a million-dollar mansion or move to a posh neighborhood. He stayed in the place he considered home. Even after his death over 37 years ago, his estate provides means and employment for Memphis. If he could come back and see it, I often wonder what he would think of it all. His choices were not always the best, but he certainly still stands as Elvis – no last name needed.
His life is a reminder that bad choices can live on long after one is gone and overshadow one’s accomplishments and good deeds. That is a humbling thought. Life is about choices. Today as I think of Elvis, I chose to remember the smile, grace for others and passion for his music. His example of living his dream and giving to others is something we can all admire and hopefully will be inspired to emulate.
It’s not how much you have that makes people respect you, but who you are.