August 16, 1977 is a date deeply etched in the minds of people around the world. It was a sad day, a day when we lost not only a great icon, but a “King.”
During the course of his 24-year career, Elvis Presley managed to achieve worldwide fame as a musical artist. That fame has remained, as he is still ranked as the best-selling solo artist in the entire world.
But no one knows just how much more Elvis’ fame could have grown if not for the horrifying discovery his fiancée, Ginger Alden, made on August 16,1977.
At the age of 42, Elvis, “The King of Rock and Roll,” was dead.
Ginger later recalled the moment she discovered Elvis’ body on the bathroom floor in his Graceland mansion, telling ET, “It was a devastating day.”
Although it was officially stated that Elvis died of a heart attack, his cause of death has been debated, and remains a source of speculation. But what is no mystery is how much Elvis’ music touched the lives of people around the world.
Saying that fans were heartbroken upon hearing the news of Elvis’ death is an understatement. For them, his death made them feel like everything was falling apart.
In the days following Elvis’ death, many media outlets took the opportunity to interview these fans to hear how they reacted to the news. Each person expressed their grief in their own way, but all showed how much they admired Elvis.
In honor of Elvis, we’ve gathered some of those reactions here for you to read. All of these responses go to show how much Elvis meant to the world he left far too soon.
“We Love Elvis…”
Thousands of fans gathered outside of Elvis’ Graceland mansion upon hearing the news of his death. Some traveled hundreds of miles to be there, feeling compelled to be at the place where Elvis spent his final moments.
News reporters also converged outside of the Graceland estate, and stopped to ask fans how they felt upon hearing the news of Elvis’ death. When asked why she went through all of the trouble to be at Graceland, one fan broke down while explaining it was simply out of admiration:
“Because we love Elvis, we still do,” she said. When the reporter told her she wouldn’t be able to get inside the gates of Graceland, she responded, “It doesn’t make any difference.”
“I Don’t Believe It…”
As the mayor of Memphis ordered the flags in the city to be flown at half-staff, more fans gathered outside of Graceland. Many of the mourners had traveled to the city days before in hopes of catching a glimpse of Elvis or Graceland.
It was a hope that some of Elvis’ fans had for decades. After his breakout moment in the 1950s, he became known as a global phenomenon and a sex symbol. Teenage girls around the world swooned over his good looks and dance moves, which were considered risque for the period.
These same fans remained loyal to Elvis throughout his career, and many of them were there at Graceland on the day he died. One fan had dreamed of coming to Graceland for over two decades, and had arrived only one day before Elvis’ death:
“I can’t believe it,” she told a reporter, choking back sobs. “I just can’t. I’ve been a fan of Elvis’ since I was 16 years old. And my dream came true, my husband brought me up here yesterday to see Elvis’ home. And I’ve waited 21 years for this, and I don’t believe it, I just don’t.”
You can see this fan’s interview along with rare footage from the day of Elvis’ death in the clip below.
“There Won’t Ever Be Anyone Else…”
Since Elvis’ death, thousands of people have donned costumes in his signature style, stepped out on stage, and entertained crowds with their best Elvis impressions while signing his hit songs. Today, Elvis is perhaps the most impersonated celebrity of all time.
But although many of people have tried to imitate Elvis, no one has or ever will be exactly like him. There was something about him and his voice that set him apart from all others.
This is a fact that his fans knew in the hours and days that unfolded after his passing. One fan summed it up perfectly:
“There’s no one else like him. There won’t ever be anyone else like him as far as I’m concerned.”
“He’s The One, The Only…”
Elvis’ death didn’t only have an impact on everyday people, but his fellow celebrities as well. Those in the music industry were hit particularly hard by the news, since Elvis had come to be one of the most respected artists of the century.
During a radio interview, Sammy Davis Jr., an actor, dancer, and singer known as a member of Frank Sinatra’s famous “Rat Pack,” spoke of how much respect he had for Elvis. When asked to rate “The King” on a scale of 1-10, Sammy said that Elvis was above such a ranking:
“He’s got to be an 11, I’m not saying that because of the tragedy…but because anybody in this business of ours that can become one of a kind…he’s the one, the only, the original. Everybody else is an imitator.”
You can listen to Davis’ interview and see media coverage of Elvis’ death in the video below. The video also contains the interviews with two fans previously mentioned in this list.
“I Feel Shattered…”
For those who had been a fan of Elvis’ for decades, he wasn’t just some celebrity to them. He was a part of who they were, and some had so much respect for Elvis that they felt like they knew him themselves.
Decades after Elvis first rose to stardom, his loyal fans still stood in line, often for days at a time, just to make sure they got tickets to his show in their hometown. Beverly Hochstedt was one of those people. When it was revealed that Elvis was performing in Baltimore, Beverly sat outside the Civic Center for 40 hours to make sure she got tickets to the show.
After Elvis passed away, Beverly was interviewed by The Washington Post about how his death affected her. The Post wrote that Beverly, who was 31 at the time, sobbed as she spoke:
“Oh, God, what can I say, I just feel so lost, I feel shattered. I feel like I lost a very, very, close, very, dear friend, part of my own family.“
Beverly’s feelings echoed those of countless others around the world. Today, people continue to ask “what if?” What if Elvis had lived a long life? Then, his fans would have no reason to feel lost, and they could have enjoyed dozens of new songs from Elvis over the years.
But as we are left here asking “what if?” we don’t really need those songs that Elvis never recorded. All we need are the songs he did record and the footage from his many entertaining performances. Footage, like that below of him performing “Lonesome Tonight,” which was the last time he was ever captured singing on film.
There’s a reason why Elvis’ legacy lives on today, and it rests within his fans. Those same fans who mourned his death went on to play his music for their children, who later taught their own children about “The King,” and so on. Thanks to the love of his fans, Elvis Presley will never truly die.