Friday, January 11, 2008

Elvis, My Dad, and I...

A few nights ago, while I was relaxing in the family room flipping through the TV channels, I came across an old documentary-style film about Elvis Presley. Being that my own father has always reminded me of Elvis, and I miss him dearly (he passed away almost 17 years ago from a congenital heart abnormality) I paused to tune in for a bit; that and the fact that of course, I adore Elvis, too!

The show was basically covering his early years in the entertainment industry, the days up to and immediately after he broke into music on a national level; the mid 1950’s. The narrator was giving some background information on the difficulties Elvis faced in the music business with a changing society that was on the brink of the rock era. Much to my surprise, it appears that Elvis was not very well received in his origins. The generation of folks ruling the airwaves at that time who had the power to determine what we the people would see on TV (the FCC and the networks) were very conservative-minded, family-focused, and “square”. They didn’t like his rockabilly style or the fact that he couldn’t seem to stand still while singing to an audience. Further, they were greatly disturbed by his “lewd and suggestive movements” on stage; they felt them to be inappropriate for family viewing (gyrate that pelvis, Elvis!) They predetermined that Elvis was loved by the teenagers of the day, but not the mature people (who held the money, as well as power and control) and those adults attempted on numerous occasions to censor Elvis’s performances; and in some cases even blackballed him in an effort to shut him down completely. NBC, for example, even insisted Elvis dress up in a tuxedo and sing “Ain’t Nothin’ but a Hound Dog” to a real, live Bassett Hound if he was to broadcast on their network at all. Elvis later stated that was the most ridiculous and embarrassing performance of his lifetime. Of course, that did happen right after a rather spicy performance on the Milton Berle show, where Elvis really showed his stuff!

I’m not sure who this documentary was authored by, but it had me feeling rather sympathetically towards the King’s humble beginnings. Several of the shots that were taken of him backstage and during his time outside of the limelight clearly conveyed his stressful demeanor, his troubles, and his overall loneliness in life. I think that no matter how successful Elvis eventually became after this point in time (from a monetary and popularity aspect) that he must still have continued to carry those same stressors, insecurities, concerns, and inner loneliness, because I have seen them all on his facial expressions during performances of his that I’ve viewed as well as looking back at the still photography of him; expressions of confusion, longing, loneliness, despair, fatigue. Plus, considering his later drug and/or alcohol abuse that led up to his early demise, one would assume that what those pictures portrayed were in fact true. What a sad thing that he was gone so soon. He truly was the King of Rock-n-Roll!

And that thought brings me back to my own dad – how much he always reminded me of Elvis; and how much I miss him still. In another month, it will be 17 years since my dad left us. His departure wasn’t “sudden”, as he had struggled with congenital heart problems from early on; but it was definitely unexpected. I still remember to this day exactly what I was doing when I heard the news. The call came while I was working in the hospital. It was my cousin on the phone. She said, “Kim, are you sitting down?” Anyone who has ever received a call like that knows the shock I felt upon hearing those words. My dad had died while home alone, peacefully relaxing in his Lazy Boy recliner (which was determined by my mom upon viewing his posture). The dog, Fluffy, was still sitting on his lap when my mom returned home from the store. It saddens me immensely when I think of how my children have endured growing up without the joy and presence of this wonderful man in their lives – my father. It has been such a great loss to them; to me. Although he wasn’t perfect, he was my pride, my hero, my knight in shining armor, my daddy…

My dad was definitely NOT a great singer like Elvis, and his dancing left much to be desired, too. But that never stopped him, nope. He’d still tell me to climb right up onto his feet, grab hold of his hands, and whirl me around the floor to the beat of the music, when I was a young child. I owe much of my musical aptitude to my loving father, who fostered that environment while I was growing up. Yes, he certainly loved music. And I loved (still love) him.

Anyway, since I’m thinking of him now, I thought I’d post an old picture of him in my blog for today as a sort of tribute to him, to his life. I’ll post Elvis’s, too. Don’t you think they sort of resemble each other?

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