I imagine that many of you didn’t notice anything special about January 8th.
Some of you my age, likely remembered that January 8th would have been the 81st birthday of the King: The King of Rock and Roll-Elvis Presley.
Elvis was indeed the king. Leonard Bernstein once said this about Elvis:
Elvis is the greatest cultural force in the twentieth century. He introduced the beat to everything and he changed everything – music, language, clothes, it’s a whole new social revolution – the 60’s comes from it. Because of him a man like me barely knows his musical grammar anymore.
Yet, Elvis was incredibly unhappy. When I was watching it in real time, at first I didn’t understand what was happening to him. It was incredibly complicated.
Based on what I have read since his death, I believe those who knew him best would say he was unhappy because he was searching for more meaning in his life. Larry Geller, Elvis’ spiritual mentor and hair stylist wrote a book: Leaves of Elvis’ Garden. I saw this thought Elvis shared with Geller:
I’ll let you in on something. I’ve always felt that there had to be some purpose for my life. I mean, ever since I was a little kid an’ growin’ up, I felt this unseen hand behind me, guiding my life, an’ getting me to the point where I’m at now.
“And most of all, why me?” Elvis leaned forward, his fingers delicately picking something invisible from the air. “Why was I plucked from all the millions of lives in the world to be Elvis? There’s gotta be a purpose in all this, a reason why I was chosen to be Elvis Presley.
That made me think of Viktor Frankel’s book: Man’s Search for Meaning, I found many helpful ideas. You’ll find his thought on success at the end of this post.
When I was a kid, about 10 years old, I was just getting interested in music. That Christmas, someone, most likely my mom and dad, gave me two record albums. I can still see the album covers in my mind.
One of them was simply titled: Ricky.
The other album was simply titled: Elvis
As a 10 year old, Ricky and Elvis were my two favorite singers. So, I was happy to get them.
They grew up in far different environments, Elvis in Tupelo, Mississippi and Rick (having watched Ozzie and Harriett for many years, it’s hard to call him Rick) in Hollywood, California. Even so, they shared a great deal in common.
I’ll save my thoughts about Rick Nelson for another day.
Elvis made his first comeback in 1968. I remember watching it on TV live. You can read about it here. It was a different kind of concert, very informal in front of a small audience.
Five years later on Super Bowl Sunday, Elvis appeared worldwide in the Aloha from Hawaii Via Satellite Concert. As you will see here, viewing figures were estimated to be somewhere between 1 and 1.5 billion worldwide.
His entrance music was Sprach Zarathustra (Theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey) moving to his opening number C.C. Rider.
One of the most memorable parts of the concert was his version of An American Trilogy, a medley of three 19th century songs: Dixie, All My Trials and The Battle Hymn of the Republic. Years later, someone created a video with footage from the concert and photos of his life.
I am still moved by hearing him sing it. If you’ve never heard it, I urge you to play the video clip.
Look, I know that none of us will be famous like Elvis. But, we may strive for success as he did, and still not find meaning in our life. I know I did, at least until I read this quote by Viktor Frankel:
Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself.