Long live the King

30 years after his death, Elvis still resonates with fans

— There's something about dead rock stars.

Especially young dead rock stars.

Jim Morrison, front man of the psychedelic rock band The Doors died at 27 and is entombed at the famous Pere Lachaise cemetery in eastern Paris. Even 36 years after his death, the grave is a popular attraction for fans and graffiti artists.

In Seattle, home to two of the most famous dead rock stars of all, Nirvana's Kurt Cobain and Jimi Hendrix, a memorial statue stands of Hendrix playing a Stratocaster, and last year, a park was named after him.

Cobain has been the subject of a documentary and a movie based loosely on his final days; Tupac Shakur's image decorates posters and T-shirts the world over; and the fallen idol of all fallen idols, John Lennon, earned $22 million in 2005 from heaven's door.

Anyway, there's something about young, dead rock stars.

But, perhaps no rock star captures and holds the fascination and imagination of fans more than the man who invented it - the king of rock-n-roll himself, Elvis Presley.

Thursday marked the 30th anniversary of his death.

"I always remember this day," said Linda Meyers, a Craig resident and Elvis fan since she was 6 years old. "I think about him on this day."

Meyer's mother, the late Martha Moore, turned her daughter onto Elvis in the 1950s, an act in stark contrast to many other parents of the time who tried to forbid their children from the hip-swaying, uninhibited young King.

Meyers said her mother - a single mom raising six children in the small town of Mystic, Iowa - adored Elvis because he came from a poor background, made it big and still found time to take care of his mother.

Meyers and her family knew poor. In 1956, they had no television and no running water.

They had Elvis, though.

"His voice was beautiful," said Meyers, who first saw Elvis on the Ed Sullivan Show (he played "Hound Dog") on her grandmother's television set. "I don't think any singer could ever sing like he could."

While the King wasn't quite as young as the 27 club - Morrison, Hendrix, Cobain and Janis Joplin all died at 27 years old - at 42, he was far from a grizzled, old musician bracing for the final curtain call.

But, he didn't last. Like many other rock stars, he fell victim to the vices of wealth and stardom.

"He's been dead longer than he was a star, and he makes more money now than he did before," Meyers said.

On Aug. 16, 1977, Meyers was sitting down with her four-month-old son. She turned on the television and heard the news.

Elvis Presley is dead.

She immediately called her mother.

"We were sad his life ended as it did," Meyers said. "It would have been nice had he not let (drugs) take over. He could have done so much."

Frank Hanel, manager and owner of KRAI and 55 Country, agrees with Meyers' sentiment.

In the radio business since 1972, Hanel's 35-year career has taken him to markets in Chicago, Kansas City and Pittsburgh.

He said the sad fact behind the deaths of stars such as Elvis, Morrison, Hendrix, Cobain, Joplin - and in a broader scale, actors like John Belushi - is that they were taken by drug use.

"If you look at it, almost across the board, and this is really a shame, it's drug use," Hanel said. "It's a drug culture."

Another regrettable fact is that these stars died at the height of their success.

"They died somewhere near their peak," Hanel said. He added, "It's really strange to me. There are better ways of being remembered."

Although Elvis wasn't at his best when he died, Hanel said Presley would have remained popular with audiences. "Elvis was still the King. Elvis would have gone on simply because he was the originator."

If they were alive today, rock stars such as Morrison, Hendrix and Joplin would be in their 60s, and Cobain would be 40.

And Elvis? Try 72.

"I can't see him at 72," Meyers said. "Maybe he was just destined to die young."

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