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A tribute to Elvis Presley

With a style that combined his diverse musical influences and challenged the racial barriers of the time, he ushered in a new era of American music. We remember him on his 75th birth anniversary.

music Updated: Jan 08, 2010 15:55 IST

Elvis PresleyIt is the 75th birth anniversary of Rock and roll king Elvis Presley today.

Presley, whose singing and style had revolutionised popular music in the 1950s, was born in 1935 in Tupelo, Mississippi. He and his parents had moved to Memphis, Tennessee in 1948 and Elvis had graduated from Humes High School there in 1953.

Elvis' musical influences had been the pop and country music of the time, the gospel music he heard in church and the R&B he absorbed on historic Beale Street as a Memphis teenager.

In 1954, he began his singing career with the legendary Sun Records label in Memphis. In late 1955, his recording contract was sold to RCA Victor. By 1956, he was an international sensation. With a sound and style that uniquely combined his diverse musical influences and blurred and challenged the social and racial barriers of the time, he ushered in a whole new era of American music and popular culture. He starred in 33 successful films, made history with his television appearances and specials, and secured great acclaim through his many, often record-breaking, live concert performances on tour and in Las Vegas.

Globally, he has sold over one billion records, more than any other artist. His American sales have earned him gold, platinum or multi-platinum awards for 150 different albums and singles, far more than any other artist. Among his many awards and accolades were 14 Grammy nominations (3 wins) from the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, which he received at age 36, and his being named One of the Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Nation for 1970 by the United States Jaycees.

Health problems, prescription drug dependence, and other factors led to his death at the age of 42. His body had been discovered on August 16, 1977 slumped in a bathroom at his mansion in Memphis, Tennessee. He had been rushed to the Baptist Memorial Hospital in Memphis but was pronounced dead on arrival.

The Tennessee state pathologist, Dr. Jerry Francisco, had said a post mortem examination of the singer's body had revealed he died of cardiac arrhythmia - a form of heart attack. Thousands had gathered to file past Elvis Presley's body, which lay in state at his mansion, Graceland, the day after his death. Although it was officially stated that he died of heart failure there has always been speculation that an overdose of cocaine and barbiturates also played a part.

Since his divorce from Priscilla in 1973 he had relied heavily on prescription drugs and was known to be a junk-food addict, gaining a considerable amount of weight. Known the world over by his first name, he is regarded as one of the most important figures of twentieth century popular culture.

In 2001, he came top in US magazine Forbes' poll of "Richest Deceased Celebrities". It put Elvis estate's earnings in 2000 at $35m (£23m) - $15m (£10m) of it from Graceland admission fees.