I still remember the moment I heard that Elvis had died. In August of 1977, a tell-all book by Elvis’ disloyal entourage had been released. I was 10 years old and had been completely hooked by the sensationalistic excerpts published in People — especially the story of Elvis’ spearing a woman’s breast with a pool cue and “paralyzing” it. My mother interrupted my TV watching on the afternoon of the 16th to ask, “Have you heard about Elvis?”
“Yes, and I want it!” I said, speaking of the book.
She gave me a puzzled look and said, “He died.”
Like most kids, I spent the occasional sleepless night trying to come to some peace with the idea of mortality. For some reason, this news about Elvis sent those ruminations in a different direction. I became obsessed with listening over and over to Elvis’ records, trying to apprehend how the man could be dead while his voice was still alive on a piece of spinning vinyl.
By the end of the year, I had come to a new relationship with mortality — and with history. I had lived, I realized, in the time of Elvis. The rest of my life would be spent in time not shared with Elvis. To this day, when I learn the ages of people who are younger than I am, I calculate whether or not they lived in the time of Elvis.
One clue — when I share my memory with post-1977 babies, many of them do not immediately get the reference to spinning vinyl!