Elvis Presley, a pioneering musician who fused many musical forms, was born a twin. After a difficult and complicated labor, his mother Gladys was near death, and his identical twin brother, Jesse Garon, was stillborn. Elvis was deeply affected by his brother’s death feeling that a major part of him was missing. He questioned why he had survived while his brother had not. As a child, he would talk about his brother to anyone who would listen. Elvis was plagued by a sense of guilt that he might have been responsible for Jesse’s death and felt a need to “make up” for his brother.
After the life-changing trauma of losing a son, and unable to have other children, Gladys forged an extremely close connection to Elvis. Seeing his mother suffer from the loss of her first born son, compounded his sense of guilt and added to the devotion he showed her.
Elvis was the family’s hope. Both parents were devoted to him, but the lives of Elvis and his mother continued to be intricately intertwined. The first song he recorded at a Memphis studio “My Happiness” was made as a gift to his mother and he named his music publishing company “Gladys Music.” At the age of 22 he moved his parents into Graceland, the Memphis mansion he purchased that sat on 14 acres of land. The idea of his twin brother added to his sense of being different and was his big secret. He felt that his survival was for a purpose and that his brother was with him. He wanted to connect to him in any way possible. He pursued this desire through various channels including meditation, studying the Bible, numerology and other spiritual Avenues.
At the start of Elvis’ career, Gladys spoke of her son’s talent and energetic drive. She believed that it was his birth as a twin and his brother’s death that set the stage for Presley’s incredible success. “Elvis’ destiny is to do great things, he is living for two people. He has the power of two people.”
Elvis was heavily influenced by African-American artists and brought much of their style into his music. He broke down racial barriers, disregarding segregation by performing to both black and white audiences. His strong sense of optimism and an unmatched energy helped him develop into one of the greatest and most successful super stars of all time. The love he received from his audience seemed to fill a void and allowed him to express himself fully in a way he couldn’t in his youth.
His generosity to others was vast and from the heart. He was known to give away cash, jewelry, and cars to family and strangers alike. He performed many benefit concerts, including one such event to raise a large sum of money for the completion of the USS Arizona in Hawaii, a memorial to those who lost their lives during the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. Work on the project had previously been halted for lack of funds. Other examples of his generosity include the time in Miami where he tipped a limousine driver with the actual limo; another time he personally delivered a new wheelchair to a crippled woman; and he encouraged citizens to get the polio vaccinations by posing publicly for the press while getting his own.
At 18 years old he registered for the draft. During that time he was already experiencing a rise to huge stardom. The Navy was ready to start an especially trained “Elvis Presley trained company.” The Air Force had visions of using him at their recruiting centers. However, refusing special treatment, he entered as a regular GI.
Gladys felt lost and lonely with her son far away. She was terrified for him to go into the military. She fell into a severe depression, her drinking increased and she started taking diet pills to cope.
Deeply concerned that she was deteriorating, Elvis threatened to go AWOL if the military did not give him leave to return to the states to be with her. Finally, he was granted emergency leave. He had a premonition on the night that his mother passed away. He became agitated and convinced something was wrong. Shortly after, she died of a heart attack brought on by acute hepatitis and cirrhosis. She was 46 years old. Elvis was inconsolable! He sent flowers to her grave every week until his own death 19 years later.
After his mother’s passing, Elvis returned to Germany and was promoted to Sergeant. He served his full two years and was honorably discharged.
Elvis had numerous lovers and girlfriends. Eventually he would marry a woman 10 years younger than himself, Pricilla Beaulieu, after a long courtship. However, his mother always remained the most important woman in his life. He would always be a loyal son, but it did not come easy for Elvis to be a loyal husband.
On August 16, 1977 Elvis passed away at his Graceland Estate at the age of 42.