Elvis Presley died on August 16, 1977. The King of Rock and Roll went into cardiac arrest at his home, Graceland, in the early morning. A year before the 42-year-old met his untimely death, he had a chance meeting with one of the newcomers to the pop industry: Elton John. However, Elton was surprised to see the star.
Elton reluctantly explained how meeting Elvis, one of his idols, was affected by the state he was in. At the time, Elvis was addicted to prescription drugs and had gained a lot of weight. He would gasp through concerts every night at Las Vegas residency shows and carry a towel to wipe the sweat from his body.
Elton met Elvis just before going on stage one night. Author Tom Doyle recalled the event in his book Captain Fantastic. He wrote: “It was sad. Elton looked into the King’s eyes and felt that ‘there was nothing’.”
Elton even described the star as looking extremely bad and empty.
Elton remembered the look he got from Elvis when he asked him to play a certain song during his next concert. He asked the King to play Heartbreak Hotel during the concert, but he refused. There was apparently no way he could alter his set list.
Elton said, “He was someone who was in a complete drug haze handing out nylon scarves to these fans. And yet he was still, in a way, magical.”
In another interview, this time with Oprah Winfrey in 1996, Elton said: “It was very sad because he became a big man with no eyes. They had sunk into the back of his neck and it was pathetic.”
The Rocket Man singer later revealed that this meeting with a scruffy Elvis was actually a turning point for his own struggles with addiction.
Elton later revealed: “In the end, there are pictures of me… when I look at them I think, oh my God: You turned into Elvis! You closed the door, you gained weight, you did this, you did that.” , and you didn’t care how you were. It’s very easy to do that.”
After seeing Elvis in the state he was in, Elton decided that he “didn’t want to end up like this.” He said: “I knew he would be dead in a year if he kept going like this, and he was.”
Elton explained that he “knew” he had an addiction problem, adding that “your pride will kill you.” After that, he sought help and sobered up.
Seeing Elvis as such a critical moment was probably even more powerful for Elton considering how much he adored him as a child.
Elton once recalled: “My mother used to buy a record every Friday. She came home and she had Elvis Presley’s 78, and she said, ‘I heard this at the record store, and I’ve never heard anything like it!’ She played it for me and I’ve never heard anything like it.”
He added: “It was weird because, about ten days before, I had gotten a haircut at the local hair salon, where I used to go as a kid, and I noticed a Life magazine. I was reading this article on a man who looked like an alien but was so handsome , I had never seen anything like him, and I put two and two together and said, ‘That was the man I saw in the magazine!’ So that was the record that really changed everything.”
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