Elvis Aaron Presley was born in Tupelo Mississippi on January 8, 1935 and went on to become one of the most popular cultural icons in American history. He released his first single, “Heartbreak Hotel,” in 1956 and it soon topped the charts. He also made his film debut in 1956 in Love Me Tender. He was drafted into the Army in 1958 and resumed his music and singing career in 1960. He died at the age of 42 in 1977. Many Americans make the pilgrimage to Graceland, Presley’s former estate in Memphis, to celebrate the man and his life.
Key Moments in Elvis Presley's Life
December 21, 1970
Elvis meets the President
Elvis attends a widely covered meeting with then President Richard Nixon, and offered to work with hippies to combat the use of illegal drugs.
February 1, 1968
Welcome to the world, Lisa Marie
Elvis's first and only child, Lisa Marie, is born in Memphis.
March 2, 1960
Elvis returns to the United States from military service and the train carrying him from New Jersey to Tennessee was met with large crowds along the route.
Elvis records Elvis' Christmas Album, which tops the charts and features the bluesy "Santa Claus is Back in Town."
March 23, 1956
Rock 'n' roll history
Elvis releases his self-titled debut album, which becomes the first rock 'n' roll album to top the Billboard charts.
How to Celebrate Elvis Presley’s Birthday
1. Make a pilgrimage to Graceland
Elvis loved his estate in Memphis, Graceland, and after his passing made sure it would be open to his fans. You'll likely have company -- more than 650,000 people tour Graceland each year, but what better way to celebrate the King of Rock 'n' Roll's birthday than at his place?
2. Hire an Elvis impersonator
No American singer has as many impersonators as Elvis. Throw a birthday party for Elvis and hire a local impersonator to entertain your guests. Serve Elvis's favorite sandwich, a concoction with peanut butter, bananas, and bacon. Yum!
3. Buy some Elvis classics
Elvis recorded hundreds of songs, so pick up some of his music or stream it on your favorite online music service. You'll likely find a channel dedicated to Elvis's music on Spotify or Pandora, so spend the day enjoying some of the King's rock, rockabilly, or country recordings.
Elvis's Five Best Films: He Made Some Bad Ones, But Some Good Ones Too
1. Love Me Tender
While not the lead, Elvis's appearance in Love Me Tender stands out in this post-Civil War drama.
2. Blue Hawaii
The lightweight musical comedy was perfect for Elvis in the lead role.
3. Jailhouse Rock
A bit campy, but a risk for Elvis as he played a character who had committed murder.
4. King Creole
In this classic, Elvis plays a singer who finds overnight success in a New Orleans nightclub but also trouble with a notorious gangster played by Walter Matthau.
5. Elvis on Tour
This 1972 documentary film -- made just five years before his death -- is an inside look into the singer's showmanship and ability to dazzle his audience.
Why Elvis matters
A. The face of early rock
Elvis was a bridge between the early blues-based rock pioneered by African American artists and rock 'n' roll for a broader audience. While he often covered African American artists -- some would say appropriated them -- he ushered in the beginning of the rock explosion in America.
B. He broke the rules
Prior to Elvis, the American moral police set the tone for how music and culture was consumed in America, particularly by young people. Elvis brought out the screaming youth -- especially young women, and pushed back against the authority structure of the culture.
C. There's life after death
Few American figures are still part of the cultural landscape this long after their deaths. Elvis is still talked about and his life debated. His music and movies remain influential. And, according to some, he may still be walking the earth somewhere.