Over the last couple of weeks, a number of people have posted on Facebook (and doubtless on other sites) a video of a song from a concert Elvis Presley performed about six weeks before his death. I found myself watching the video several times over and it took me a while to realize why I found it so compelling. It is true that I have always loved the song in question – Unchained Melody – but that wasn’t it.
At this point in his live, Elvis was a mess. Years of drug abuse had taken their toll. One journalist wrote that by early 1977, “Presley had become a grotesque caricature of his sleek, energetic former self. Hugely overweight, his mind dulled by the pharmacopoeia he daily ingested, he was barely able to pull himself through his abbreviated concerts.”
Indeed, at the beginning of the following video, Elvis is barely understandable as he staggers to the piano. But then he starts to play and to sing. And when you hear that voice, and see the occasional smile on his face, something happens. What you see is a man who had almost nothing left reach somewhere deep within himself to remind both himself and us who he was. It was his last great moment, and a deeply touching one.
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