In 2010, Elvis Presley, the legendary "King of Rock 'n' Roll," celebrated his 75th birthday at his Graceland manor outside Memphis, Tennessee.
Life of the King by Eric LippsPresley had narrowly survived an overdose of prescription medication on August 16, 1977, during a period when he had been experiencing a number of health problems, including what would subsequently be diagnosed as the early stages of degenerative arthritis. After that incident, he finally yielded to the pleadings of intimates, withdrawing from performance for over two years. It would later be learned that during this time the pop icon underwent a rigorous detoxification program to wean him off the painkillers to which he had become addicted.
By the spring of 1980, a reinvigorated and slimmed-down Presley would be ready to re-enter the spotlight. His singing engagements, however, would slowly be overshadowed by the star's newly aggressive political involvement: Presley would be an outspoken supporter of Ronald Reagan both that year and in 1984, and would court right-wing televangelists Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, who in turn would use their TV ministries to promote him.
Presley was no latter-day convert to conservatism. As early as 1970 he had met privately with then-President Richard Nixon, denouncing the hippie culture and asking to be given a Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs badge to add to similar souvenirs had been collecting. He had also been outspokenly hostile to the Beatles, though whether from political motives or out of resentment at their having displaced him in the 1960s limelight is difficult to say. By 1988, however, he had moved far enough rightward to endorse Pat Robertson in that year's GOP primaries. Cynics, noting the TV preacher's promotion of Presley on his "700 Club" talk show, suggested that Presley was merely paying off a debt, but the two men's friendship was apparently genuine.
By the 1990s, however, the onetime King was ready to abdicate, this time for good. Advancing age had brought a new round of health problems, and younger performers such as Michael Jackson were displacing Presley among all but a dwindling set of aging fans. In August of 1998, Elvis formally announced his retirement. Thereafter, he would make only occasional appearances, generally as a guest on late-night talk programs, though he did briefly appear (as himself) in the 2003 feature biopic Life of the King.