Elvis Presley Videos

Elvis’s Swan Song: A Daring Showcase Despite Being Noticeably Sick

Elvis Presley passed away on August 16, 1977, at just 42, following prolonged misuse of prescription medications and alcohol. His final public appearance took place in Indianapolis, Indiana, on June 26, 1977, a mere few weeks before his premature passing. In the lead-up to this last performance, two of Presley’s concerts were captured on film for a television special on June 19 in Omaha, Nebraska, and June 21 in Rapid City, South Dakota.

The television special “Elvis in Concert,” which included footage from these performances, aired six weeks post Presley’s death. Following several broadcasts as per the contractual agreement, the Presley estate later halted further showings due to its portrayal of Presley in a deteriorated state, earning it the unwelcome nickname of the “Fat Elvis” concert, a portrayal many found regrettable.

The closing encore of the Rapid City performance, “Are You Lonesome Tonight?,” stands as Presley’s final recorded act. Despite struggling with the spoken portion of the track, Presley’s vocal performance remained robust. Fans in the comments highlight Presley’s tendency to playfully alter lyrics and song breaks, though his spoken delivery here appears unusually indistinct, signaling his declining health. Observers have suggested that his condition warranted hospitalization at the time.

Reflecting on his 1973 divorce from Priscilla, Presley introduced his final song with poignant words: “This one’s called ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight?’ I am, and I was.” His performance was emotive, and despite a clumsy spoken segment, which he jovially dismissed with his audience, he regained composure, and his singing resonated. Despite visible swelling, his vocal prowess was evident. Contrasting with his earlier mumblings, his introduction of “Unchained Melody” earlier in the set was coherent and articulate.

The performance was nothing short of magnificent. A YouTube user, Mikey, remarked, “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 difference between his clear introduction of “Unchained Melody” and the mumbled delivery in “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” suggests that severe health issues and exhaustion may have played a role in the latter’s faltering spoken parts. Despite evident health challenges, including a swollen heart, gastrointestinal problems, high blood pressure, and chronic insomnia, Presley managed to give 55 performances in the first half of 1977 alone.

Jerry Schilling, a close associate of Presley, recounted in his memoir how he questioned Presley’s manager, Col. Tom Parker, about allowing the visibly unwell Presley to be filmed. Parker reportedly responded that Presley himself was adamant about proceeding with the filming as planned. My research for this piece has left me astounded and moved by the caliber of Presley’s vocal talent in his last publicly recorded concert. The king may be gone, but Elvis’s legacy endures.

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