Elvis fans mark 40 years since death of ‘The King’
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Tens of thousands of Elvis Presley fans gathered at Graceland, his iconic Memphis mansion, on Wednesday to honour “The King of Rock” on the 40th anniversary of his death.
More than 600,000 fans visit Graceland each year, paying tribute to the icon of popular culture of whom John Lennon once said, "Before Elvis there was nothing."
Forty years after his tragic death at age 42, floral tributes from around the world still line the Meditation Garden, where the king of rock 'n' roll is buried at his Memphis home.
Tens of thousands attended a candlelight vigil on Tuesday to mark the anniversary. Among them was Presley's daughter Lisa Marie, who thanked the crowd and lit candles for fans.
Elvis died suddenly from heart failure on August 16, 1977, after battling health problems including weight gain and a dependency on prescription drugs.
But the idea that his spirit lives on is central to fans of all ages, from all countries, who find his music soothing in times of trouble and are moved by his rags-to-riches story.
"He's a gift from God to all of us," said Lisa Bseiso, the 36-year-old daughter of a Palestinian father and Colombian mother but who was born and raised in Qatar.
"God took him back home, but he's still here," she told AFP, recalling her "very spiritual, deep encounter" with the late singer’s spirit during a visit to Graceland in August 2014.
"He was sitting in a chair," she said. "He had tears coming down his eyes and he said, 'Don't forget me, spread my legacy in your part of the world’.”
A new $28.75 fee
A few Presley fans made a pilgrimage to Graceland the year he died, and they've continued coming ever since.
For four decades, fans were able to walk past his grave without spending a penny. But this year many were shocked to discover that the procession would cost them almost $30.
Visitors attending the vigil had to purchase an Elvis Week Property Pass wristband to walk up the long driveway and past the graves where Presley and his relatives are buried.
The $28.75 wristband also provided access to a new $45 million entertainment complex at the Memphis tourist attraction.
Longtime fan Fred Schwarz of Springfield, Illinois, told the Associated Press that fans should be insulted at the new charge.
"I looked forward to going down there this year, and they come up with all this," Schwarz said. "I don't want to even go to Memphis anymore. The people running that are not Elvis fans. They are in business. Corporations, they want the bottom line."
Graceland, which is operated by Elvis Presley Enterprises, said the fee was the result of an upgrade to security measures put in place for Elvis Week.
"In order to keep everyone safe and ensure an enjoyable and meaningful event for all, we have worked closely with local, state and federal security authorities to establish new procedures that have been widely used across the US," it said in a statement.
(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP)