Music Is What Memories Sound Like, even 40 Years Later, Elvis Brings Those Memories to Life

by Laura Lou / 2431 days ago / Comments

August 16, 1977, at approximately 10:00 am, the world lost “The King”, Elvis Presley.

I was 6 years old in 1977.  I can barely recall memories from that age other than the dog I loved, Tiger, the house I lived in on North Drive in Louisville, Kentucky and I honestly cannot recall the school I attended at the time or the name of the little boy that lived behind us who would always come over and kiss my mother’s hand and tell her she was beautiful. 

What I do remember, however, was that it was the day that a neighborhood kid came running to my house, knocked on the door, and said “Did you hear? Did you hear about Elvis? He’s dead!”.  Again, I have no recollection of this kid’s name or even her face now, yet her words I can still hear as loud and clear as if she had just said them.

Forty-years ago, wow, that is hard to type, things were different, a lot different than they are now.  For example, we did not have air conditioning that ran non-stop all day in August.  We left the front door open and there was a screen door that stood between us and the outside world.  My mother always made a home-cooked meal that was ready and on the table when my father got home from work.  We had a color television, believe it or not, but there were only four, maybe five channels on a good day, and the weather was nice.  There was no cable television, no dish network, and no internet.  During the summer, all the neighborhood kids would go outside and play.  We did not have video games or computers, and we did not have cell phones, I know, it is hard to believe that we survived.

The things we had were so much more important and looking back, I wish that my kids and my grandkids could experience that world of friends and family, that you talked to, face-to-face, not with FaceTime.  If we wanted to know if someone wanted to go roller skating on Friday or Saturday, we would run down to their house and have them ask their parents if they could go.  Then usually we had to raise the money for skate rental, admission, and a drink with popcorn.  Granted, that total was probably close to $5.00 total but that was a lot of money way back then, you know, forty years ago.  Okay, I should quit typing that because as much as I am trying to convince you what it was like growing up in 1977, it is difficult for me to believe it was that many years ago.

The point of all this prelude to the true topic at hand is that while we may not have had all the extra comforts and technology of today, what we did have were real, factual interactions with each other.  Instead of hearing about a celebrity’s death on Facebook or Twitter, your friend would run down the street and tell you something so important.  The meaning behind all of it, looking back now, was so much more real and raw and just filled with emotion.  The human experience of sharing things with someone else, having another person that you can communicate with, one on one, with news this devastating.

Regarding “The King”, this was something that my mother and I shared a deep love and passion for as I was growing up and we still share that connection.  I am sure that I began my interest because of hers and that is okay as well.  I know that there was not a time when Elvis was on television for a late-night program, morning show program, concert special or even a commercial, that my mother and I did not wait all week, counting down the days and preparing that evening with early showers, pajamas, and popcorn ready to gather together, lay at the foot of the bed, and watch Elvis do what captivated the world, perform and entertain.  Transporting you into his world, even if for just an hour, everything else in the world did not matter, you were right there with Elvis and it was magical. 

Back to the neighborhood kids spreading the news, I literally can smell the meatloaf and green beans that my mother had prepared and had placed on the table.  I can feel the warm air of the August heat coming through that screen door.  I can remember the exact layout of the house and that I had just washed my hands for dinner when the knock came at the door. 

I headed for the door to answer it and my mother said, “It is dinner time, they will have to come back later.” “Ok, mom.  Let me tell her. (again, I cannot remember her name for the life of me)”.  I continued to the door and there she stood, a panicked look on her face, still trying to catch her breath from running to my house. “Did you hear?  Did you hear about Elvis?  He’s dead.” 

Clearly, I must have needed to eat because I was hallucinating and hearing things like “Elvis is dead” and that just could not be true.  I mean, come on, there was a new movie coming soon to theatres, featuring him.  There was music that he had ready and none of us had heard that yet.  There were television specials that my mother and I still had to see.  He was scheduled to be in Kentucky soon, how could this be that I would not actually see Elvis in concert, live?  There were still memories to make and if he is gone, what happens now?  So, he just up and left us?  No goodbye, no see you later, no farewell show or announcement, just gone?

I stood there, at that screen door, with all those thoughts going through my mind at one time.  I can literally relive that moment and those thoughts as if it had just occurred.  I can hear my mother saying, “it’s time to come to the table for dinner Laura” and I know I did not answer her.  I said nothing.  I walked away from the door, walked over to the television set and turned it on and then sat on the couch.  This had to be a lie.  Someone has started a terrible rumor and it must be a lie. 

By this time, of no response to my friend, she went home.  With no response to my mother, she was not the happiest with me at that moment.  She walked into the family room, looked at me and said, “what are you doing, dinner is on the table, it is time to eat?”

With that, I just started crying.  Tears of such sorrow and sadness at either the cruel rumor and lie that someone had started or even more terrifying, the realization of what if this is true and he really is dead?  Of course, my mother, being as patient as possible with me, had no idea of what was going on because she had not heard the news yet and I had not said a word.  I just looked at her and screamed, “Elvis is dead!” her response was as I expected and as I had reacted, disbelief and silence. 

My father came into the family room confused as to why we were not sitting at the table, having dinner, as usual, and my mother told him the news.  We all sat there, as dinner was getting cold, watching the breaking news of this tragic event, Elvis Presley was dead, at the age of 42. 

I cannot recall how long we sat there and I cannot express the silence in the room, which seemed more like time had stopped and there was no sound anywhere.  As if everyone in the world, or at least my neighborhood had received the same news from the town crier, and we were all in our homes, with our families feeling confused, sad, heartbroken and still, in disbelief.

To this day, I can hear an Elvis song and I am immediately transported to the movie he sang that song in, the television special he sang that song for, or the talk shows or news magazine cover he would have been appearing on, because he was Elvis and we were his people, his fans, he was our family.

Right there it is.  Family.  These artists, they come into our lives at a certain point, whether it is through a song that has lyrics that make you feel it was written for you and only you to hear or through a different connection that you have with them.  They talk about their lives and about their families, and with the exception that they probably have cell phones and cable television, they are not that different from you.  They pour everything out there for us to see and judge, leaving them with less and less privacy and more people watching them.  They give everything they have to us for our entertainment and we, not because we mean them harm, just because it is the nature of the relationship, take and take, always wanting more from them, which in turn, makes them such a huge part of our lives and makes the loss so hard for us to take. 

I would like to close this with something I read after Prince’s death and it makes complete sense on losing a celebrity.  I think it is spot on and I would like to share it with you.

“For people who don’t understand why others mourn the death of artists, you need to understand that these people have been a shoulder to cry on.  Our rock.  They have been family, friends, leaders, teachers & role models.  Many have taught us what we need to know and what to do when times get tough.  They’ve helped us move on.  They’ve pushed us out of bed.  They’ve helped us live when nobody else had the time to.  Artists inspired us in endless ways and have been with us through stages in our lives.  We’ve made memories with them.  So, when they die, a part of us dies.” - unknown

This is something for every artist to remember and something that every fan can relate to at some point in your life. These artists have a tremendous responsibility, that they didn't necessarily realize they were accepting.  They are just inspired, driven, and drawn to play music for us to all enjoy.  Becoming a part of our history, our life, and our journey was not planned but most are grateful to be just that, a part of us. 

Elvis was, is and always will be a part of my life.  I am grateful for the memories even the very clear memories of when I heard he had passed away.  Because to know that I felt something so deep and so many years later can recall that exact moment and those exact emotions, to me, simply means that Elvis did what he aspired to do, which was touch us all with his music and leave something for us to have always as a part of him here with us, a legacy of sorts, for us to treasure and pass on to the next generation of fans.

Forty years later, Elvis does live, inside of each of us that can share these moments with each of you.




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About Laura Lou

Laura Lou Journalist

Beginning about age 13, music always been my “safe place”, my “escape”, it became a part of who I am. My background includes being a photographer/journalist for newspapers, magazines and radio stations and more recently I have been an artist manager. What I continue to strive to learn is, what is important to the fans/readers? I find that the answer is always that they want to feel close to the artist they are supporting. The human contact that we all need is something that I want to deliver to anyone that happens to read something I write or see a photograph I shoot. It is important to me to provide that experience, because I am, after all, still always a “fan” and that giddy 13-year-old girl is simply amazed! I never imagined that my passion and love for music would lead me where I am today! I use the hashtag #iamtheluckiestgirliknow because I cannot believe how blessed I am! I’m excited to see “what happens next” and take you all along with me! This is going to be amazing…