Elvis Presley Videos

Elvis’s Final Act: A Courageous Performance Despite Visible Illness

Elvis Presley passed away on August 16, 1977, at just 42 years old, succumbing to complications from prolonged misuse of prescription medications and alcohol. His final public appearance unfolded in Indianapolis, Indiana, on June 26, 1977, just weeks before his untimely death. Leading up to this last performance, two of Presley’s concerts were filmed for a television special: one on June 19 in Omaha, Nebraska, and another on June 21 in Rapid City, South Dakota.

The resulting TV special, “Elvis in Concert,” showcased these performances and aired six weeks after Presley’s demise. Although it was initially broadcast several times according to a contractual agreement, the Presley estate eventually stopped further airings due to its portrayal of Elvis in a deteriorated state, which led to the unfortunate nickname of the “Fat Elvis” concert.

During the Rapid City concert’s encore, Presley performed “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” in what would become his final recorded act. Although he struggled with the spoken portion of the song, his vocal performance was still strong. Fans noted Presley’s playful alterations to lyrics and breaks in the song, although his speech was notably unclear, indicative of his worsening health. Some observers have mentioned that his condition at the time might have necessitated hospitalization.

As he introduced his last song, reflecting on his 1973 divorce from Priscilla, Elvis said poignantly, “This one’s called ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight?’ I am, and I was.” His delivery was heartfelt, and despite a faltering spoken segment, which he light-heartedly acknowledged to his audience, he regained his composure, and his singing deeply moved those present. His voice showcased his undeniable talent, despite noticeable physical signs of his ailments. In contrast, his introduction of “Unchained Melody” earlier in the set was clear and articulate.

The performance left a lasting impact. A YouTube user named Mikey commented, “That final glance as he finishes the song… it’s breathtaking. My dad took us to Graceland multiple times during my childhood. I understand now, Dad. Such a voice. Such spirit. The King, eternally.”

The contrast between his coherent introduction of “Unchained Melody” and the mumbled delivery in “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” hinted at the severe health challenges and exhaustion affecting him. Despite these difficulties, including a swollen heart, gastrointestinal issues, high blood pressure, and chronic insomnia, Elvis managed to perform 55 shows in the first half of 1977.

Jerry Schilling, a close friend and associate, noted in his memoir how he questioned Elvis’s manager, Col. Tom Parker, about the decision to allow the visibly unwell Presley to be filmed. Parker insisted that Elvis himself wanted to proceed with the filming as planned. My research into this period of Elvis’s life has deepened my appreciation for his immense vocal talent during his last publicly recorded concert. Though the king has passed, Elvis’s legacy remains unshakable.

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