Apart from a few select members of my immediate family, the first person I can actually remember knowing and recognising, as an excitable, little, dungaree-wearing human, was a hip-shaking, lip-curling, rock and roll singer who died twenty-five years before I was born. I was a child raised on the stars of a fading era (stars who were very formative in my youth and who are still very precious to me as an adult): my grandma gave me Doris Day; my dad gave me Danny Kaye; above anyone else, my mum and my aunt—two of the most important ladies in my life—gave me Elvis Presley.
I was weaned on a diet of his worst musicals and the That’s The Way It Is album. By the age of about seven or eight, I’d seen his entire filmography umpteen times, been to concert screenings of the 1968 Comeback Special, checked out all the merchandise we had stored away (I’m talking a rug-with-his-face-on levels of merchandise), and regularly re-enacted scenes in my bedroom, pretending to be Ann-Margret (Viva Las Vegas has always been my favourite). He was as much a part of the everyday as the people who tangibly surrounded me were and even when those early halcyon years were over, when other fleeting interests had come and gone, he was still there—is still there; tucked away in a little corner of me that no one else can touch. As a long-time enthusiast of that lost era of Hollywood, there are others whose work I generally prefer (in terms of music, Frank Sinatra is, for me, unsurpassable; in terms of film, I adore Gene Kelly), but none of them are quite so firmly rooted in my memories or my psyche as the figure of Elvis is.
As you grow older, there are people who you can’t imagine your life without, but he’s someone who I actually can’t remember my life without. Today marks forty years since his tragic death and it’s strange to me to think that someone who I never even once shared the same earth with has had such an impact upon my identity; although, I suppose that to believe that means to forgo the belief that he lives on in his legacy—and he does live on. Elvis means a lot of things to a lot of people the whole world over, still, now, after all these years. To me, he’s my namesake (well, his home is), he’s indisputably The King, and—in a strange and roundabout sort of way—he’s family.