Today, August 16, is the anniversary of the death of singer, actor Elvis Presley. Elvis Presley was pronounced dead at 2:30 PM at Baptist hospital in Memphis, Tennessee after collapsing in his bathroom at Graceland earlier in the day. He was only 42. The day Elvis Presley died, may have been the reason my life still continues.

Let me explain. I was not an Elvis Presley fan prior to his death in 1977. I was offered a ticket to see him live in Baton Rouge in the mid-70s and declined the ticket. At the time, all I knew about Elvis Presley musically were songs "Hound Dog" and "Teddy Bear". I knew he was a huge star, but other than that, I didn't know much more about him. Of course, as many of you know, today, I'm one of the biggest Elvis Presley fans in the world. Having met his daughter Lisa Marie, only wife Priscilla, most everyone who's ever shared a stage with him and during one of my many visits to his home Graceland, was left inside...alone. I've even had the privilege of cleaning every inch of his gravesite. I'm a fan.

Staff Photo
Staff Photo
Staff Photo
Staff Photo

When Elvis Presley passed away, for about a week, all I heard was Elvis music on the radio and television networks ran many of his movies.

During the period immediately following his death, I was exposed to much of Presley's catalog of music, music I'd never heard. Songs like "In The Ghetto", "Kentucky Rain", "Don't Cry Daddy", "Suspicious Minds", etc. All songs that are a far cry from the echoey mono recordings from the 50s.

For Christmas of 1977, my grandmother, my mother's mom who lived with us for a while, gave me a few Elvis Presley albums. I think she gave me three in total. Those recordings were the birth of my relationship Elvis. I fell in love with his voice.

I always had pretty good stereo equipment. I'd cut grass and do odd jobs to have money to buy good stereo equipment which included always having the newest best-sounding headphones.

A great pair of headphones was important to me for two reasons. First, they had to be good enough for me to be able to hear vocals and instruments clearly. As if I were there in the studio at the time of the recording. And secondly, it was imperative I own headphones that sealed out all other sounds.

You see, like many, I come from a dysfunctional family. My parents argued constantly. That's not a generalization, if they were awake, they were arguing and fighting. I needed an escape and music was it. And a good pair of headphones made the escape possible.

However, the best headphones in the world would have been useless to me had there not been something playing in them that wowed me enough to direct my attention from the yelling and screaming of my parents. Elvis Presley's music was powerful enough to do that. I would listen to every note of his voice and every chord from every instrument from every song. I would listen at high volumes. Back then, headphones didn't have a volume protection limit like they do today. Turning up the music was the only way to escape my parent's chaos.

I debated whether or not to share this part of my story publicly, but decided if my story might help someone else, then I should.

I don't have any siblings as I am an only child. My parents wanted more children but my mom had complications during my birth and couldn't have more. So I endured my parent's dysfunctional lives, solo.

There were a few times when I thought about taking my own life to escape what I was going through. I remember on several occasions trying to think of ways to do it.

I'm from a very small town. I didn't know what counseling was and even if I would have, we didn't have money for that. Not to mention, my dad would have thought that was the most ridiculous thing in the world.

My therapy became Elvis Presley's music. On those days when I didn't want to go on, I'd grab those headphones, put on a live performance of Elvis on stage and turn it up as loud as I could stand it. Elvis Presley's voice was mesmerizing enough to take my mind off of the unimaginable and gave me the strength to get to the next day.

I enjoyed Elvis's music then and still do today. I listen to Elvis almost every day of my life. I often wonder what would have happened to me had I not discovered Elvis Presley's music. I liked other music, but there was just something about Elvis that took my mind off the struggle. No other artist or group did that day after day, night after night back then.

I still rely on the "King" to get me through tough times. There's nothing a live recording of "How Great Thou Art" can't fix for me.

For anyone who reads this and needs a helping hand, please reach out to someone whom you trust or a certified counselor. Today, there are agencies that offer help, many times free of charge. Never do something to permanently hurt yourself or someone else.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Hours: Available 24 hours. Languages: English, Spanish.

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