Elvis Presley: The King who never really died

It's been 40 years since The King's death, but his music - and the conspiracy theories - live on, says Sky's Duarte Garrido.

Forty years after his death, Elvis Presley remains the source of many hopes and myths – but what keeps him alive is his music.

To this day, suspicious minds refuse to accept the king of rock’n’roll really died on 16 August 1977.

Coroner reports say the star was found face down on the floor in the bathroom of his home in Graceland, Tennessee, dead from a bloated heart and a swollen liver after years of substance abuse, at the age of 42

It was not the right way for a king to die, especially one who changed the history of music forever.

Shortly after his funeral, conspiracy theories began emerging; among the strangest are alien abductions and an evil twin.

The most popular and, in a way, the most plausible, is that Presley was working as a mole for the FBI, infiltrated at the top of the mafia.

When he was found, it was now or never – he had to run.

Elvis Presley's gun
Elvis’ gun – a symbol of his bad-boy attitude and possible connections to the underworld

His supposed agreement with “the feds” is detailed in the 1988 bestseller Is Elvis Alive?, in which the author claims the singer went into witness protection and changed his name to John Burrows after infiltrating an organisation called “The Fraternity”.

Then of course, there were sightings.

Michigan in the 1980s, Memphis in the 1990s, last year at Graceland, and even in the airport scene of Home Alone – apparently waiting in the background as Kevin McCallister’s mum explains to an airport official how she has lost her son.

But Elvis was a famous face, and hiding his death would have been quite the endeavour – involving hundreds, maybe thousands, of conspirators.

One theory says his family helped cover his fake death, and purposely misspelled his middle name on his grave so as not to jinx his health.

If you visit his gravestone in Memphis, you will see him buried as Elvis Aaron Presley – the extra “a” being omitted from most of his official documentation.

Then there are those who just can’t help believing he was abducted by aliens attempting to connect with a musical genius admired throughout the galaxy, while others say he replaced his supposedly dead twin – who was apparently kept as a replacement in case Elvis ever needed a body double.

Elvis Presley Grave
The singer’s family have been accused of purposely misspelling his middle name on his grave

Elvis’ life after death has been the subject of many theories and hundreds of pilgrims still flock every day to his grave site, taking pictures or saying a prayer to the man who symbolised the American Dream.

His good looks, swing moves, bad-boy attitude and dramatic voice were a lethal combination. In his songs, he mixed country, gospel and rock. In his films, he was a cowboy, a lover, a military man and a jailbird.

Looking back at his influences, many accuse him of stealing the blues from African Americans, others blame the downfall of country music on his huge success.

Truth is, Chuck Berry was the first king of rock’n’roll and the Carter Family were stealing African-American folk before Elvis was even born.

Even so, forty years after his death, his songs still flood the airwaves, his impersonators still draw crowds and his deep, chilling, melancholic voice still echoes deep in the heart of America.

John Lennon famously said that “before Elvis, there was nothing”.

That isn’t true. But has there been anything since?

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