Elvis Presley Videos

Elvis’s Final Performance: A Bold Display Despite Illness

Elvis Presley passed away on August 16, 1977, at the age of 42, due to prolonged misuse of prescription medications and alcohol. His final public appearance was in Indianapolis, Indiana, on June 26, 1977, just a few weeks before his death. Prior to this, two of his concerts were filmed for a television special on June 19 in Omaha, Nebraska, and June 21 in Rapid City, South Dakota.

The television special “Elvis in Concert,” featuring footage from these performances, aired six weeks after Presley’s death. After several broadcasts as per the contractual agreement, the Presley estate later stopped further showings due to its portrayal of Presley in a deteriorated state, earning it the nickname of the “Fat Elvis” concert.

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, his vocal performance remained strong. Fans noted Presley’s tendency to playfully alter lyrics and song breaks, but his spoken delivery here appeared unusually indistinct, indicating his declining health. Observers suggested that his condition at the time warranted hospitalization.

Reflecting on his 1973 divorce from Priscilla, Presley introduced “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” with poignant words: “This one’s called ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight?’ I am, and I was.” 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 clear and articulate.

The performance was 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 severe health issues and exhaustion played a role in the latter’s faltering spoken parts. Despite evident health challenges, Presley managed to give 55 performances in the first half of 1977 alone.

Jerry Schilling, a close associate of Presley, recounted in his memoir questioning Presley’s manager, Col. Tom Parker, about allowing the visibly unwell Presley to be filmed. Parker reportedly responded that Presley was adamant about proceeding with the filming. 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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