By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
“That was 10 years ago now. Man. That’s the last time I played with those guys, and the last time I saw Scotty. The Colonel has his secrets too, I guess. He killed a man in Amsterdam when he was 20, and hopped a tramp steamer for New York.”
His breathing had gotten very shallow, and he took out a packet of pills from his breast pocket and swallowed the whole handful without looking at them. After a time, once his breaths had deepened and elongated, and the flush of his face added a slight glow to his countenance, he returned to his story.
“I‘m telling you this because I want you to take what I have to say seriously,” Elvis said when he had recovered. “It’s my gift to you: You can piss on it or put it in your pocket or sell it to the papers. I don‘t care. But at least you’ll know that what I‘m about to tell you I believe.”
“Right,” said John.
“Good. Because my whole life, I have known that I was special. That I was imbued with some sacred power; that God had some master plan for me. When she was carrying us in the womb, Mama used to go down to the Assembly of God service every day, where they had the holy rolling. She had a prophecy one time that her only son would be a great man, and he would carry on the Lord’s purpose. I used to think it was Jesse watching over me -- ‘coming through,’ taking over me when I was onstage. All my life, I‘ve had sleepwalking -- action nightmares, my mama called them -- where I’d see Jesse‘s little blue face, fighting for breath, and then it would be my face, blue against a red backdrop, and then on top of that I’d see the face of Jesus. ‘Precious memories, unseen angelsSent from nowhere to my soulHow they linger, ever near meAnd the sacred past unfolds.’ The Blackwood Quartet sang that at my mama‘s funeral.
”But then as I got older, I learned there was others like me. That others had this power. This force inside of them. I don’t know how many there is of us -- 12 or 15 maybe, I‘ve heard of. Sam said that some of the old bluesmen he saw had it. You get it from somebody; it’s passed on between the generations. I thought I might have got it from Frank Sinatra, but Sam thinks I had it by the time I first met him. I tried to give it to the Beatles. They came out to my house in Bel-Air in 1966. But they already had it. Or at least one of ‘em did. One of them was real polite.“
”Macca,“ said John. ”Paul McCartney. Our producer was recording him during the week and us on the weekends.“
”Paul, right,“ said Elvis. ”It wasn’t him, it was the other one. He sent me a real nice note later on, but there wasn‘t nothing I could do for him. Except that it’s always been a lot stronger in me than anyone else. We had a big storm in Tupelo when I was 1 year old. A tornado came down and sucked the feathers clean off the chickens, and shish-kebabbed the cows on broken tree trunks. A couple hundred people got killed. John Lee Hooker had a song about it. I always thought I might have got it from that. The Colonel used to call me ‘the first atomic-powered singer’; Fat Man and Little Boy was the names they gave the a Hiroshima bombs, and I always thought that best described him and me.
“The way I figure it, maybe God knew the whites was gonna kill the blacks, or the blacks was gonna rise up and kill the whites. And rock & roll was his way of preventing that. It was like a virus, a plague, only in reverse. It infected all the young people, and they carried it for a generation, and then when the times demanded it, it was like an antitoxin that inoculated us against racism and prejudice -- to cross-pollinate the races and open our hearts to one another. It‘s taken a while to work itself out, and it’s got a ways to go, but that‘s mostly what it’s done.
”That‘s why I sing to mostly white people now. Las Vegas, the International Hilton, whitest people I can find. ’Cause they‘re the ones that most needs it. I’m like a missionary, only the opposite. I‘m going into the heart of whitest America, and I’m carrying the black gospel. That‘s why I always close with ’The American Trilogy‘-- ’Dixie,‘ ’The Battle Hymn of the Republic‘ and ’All My Trials, Lord.‘ The South, the North and the slaves. I’m the one person can bring us all together. That‘s what Sam used to say: ’I ain‘t looking for no tall stumps to preach from.’ Just let me do my part.“