50th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s ’68 Comeback Special and he’s still “The King”
When I was five years old, I remember my mom running into the living room saying she just heard on the radio that Elvis had died. For some reason I remember it quite vividly. Now fast forward a few years to around 1980. I found my mothers old 45 records with a tiny record player buried in a closet in my grandparent’s home. There was The Beatles, Buddy Holly, Little Richard and many more. I played them all over and over again as I was just discovering music for myself, and I started listening to the actual artist rather than just the song. The record that always stood out the most for me was Love Me Tender by Elvis, there was just something different about it, and I couldn’t stop playing it.
I truly discovered Elvis when I was in my mid twenties. I’d always loved his music but had never delved into who he was as a person. I was at a library in Vancouver and came across a book about Elvis and his life from beginning to end. I honestly couldn’t put it down. To this date I’ve probably ready about thirty books on his rise to fame. I realize now why there aren’t any true bio movies about him as it would be next to impossible to detail his life and do it justice in a 2-3 hour film. It is an amazing story with a very sad ending for someone who changed the face of music like no one ever had, or ever will again.
When Elvis returned from his two years in the Army, he went right back into music and then into film. His first few movies were amazing, my favorite being Jailhouse Rock. He had the James Dean moodiness about him and no one could do the lip curl like Elvis. From there though he sank into depression with the making of generic, soulless, rehashed movie storylines that he was helpless to step away from. In 1968 he filmed his final movie “Change Of Habit” and went back to his roots and focused on music. He was approached by NBC to do a Christmas special, which Elvis did not want to do. Steve Binder, the director/producer eventually persuaded Elvis’s manager, Col. Tom Parker, to reconsider and make this Elvis’s comeback special, which Elvis was all for. It still lead to big fights between Binder and Elvis’s manager, after insisted on there being a Christmas song in the set of music, leading Elvis to step in numerous times to calm the situation.
“The ’68 Elvis Comeback Special was so much more than a comeback. It reinstated Elvis as the top entertainer he once was. This is Elvis at his very best, a god among men. His black leather outfit was reminiscent of his late 50’s look. His voice was undeniably at his peak with more power than anyone had heard him sing before. His charisma oozed all over the stage, and as song arranger Billy Goldenberg said in Peter Guralnick’s book Careless Love, “Elvis loved to improvise and talk about old times. He would play the songs and keep repeating them and get excited just by repetition.” Elvis was back, and in a big way. For me, watching it for probably the fiftieth time, it doesn’t stop being enthralling. He just had everything, the whole package. When he smiled or laughed, you couldn’t help but do the same. It was a ground breaking special and it opened a whole new music career for Elvis. He released some of his best music around this time and enjoyed his reign as “The King” again for a number of years before his descent.
On Sunday, February 17th ,2019 NBC and some of music biggest stars celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 68 Comeback Special. Hard to believe it’s been fifty years since then, and he is still loved as much now as he was then. Millions and millions of fans worldwide still believe in the power of his voice and music. If you ever get a chance, pick up the two book collection by Peter Guralnick titled “Last Train To Memphis” and “Careless Love”. New York Times rated it the finest rock and roll biography ever written. Learn about the man himself and just how amazing his life was and why he was called 'The King', and why he will always be just that.