Stuff I Know About Elvis

I talk about podcasts from time to time. The boyfriend has a complaint-worthy commute to and from work each day and has gone through a list of things he’s tried to keep his nerves calm. I keep telling him about the How Stuff Works: Stuff You Should Know podcast. He has yet to listen.

Yesterday, I made my mom a believer. We listened to about 6 episodes (average time 15 minutes each) and laughed and added our own relevant commentary. Based on these podcasts alone, I have learned about exorcism, how the CIA tested LSD on American citizens, why the FDA doesn’t regulate herbal supplements, and how to erase my identity and start all over. And the topics get even more interesting than that. Take “How Graceland Works” for example.

On previous visits to Memphis, me being the historical home junkie that I am (blame the boyfriend), I’ve always wanted to visit Graceland. Excuses for driving past include the high-price of the tour and the line being too long. I’m not an Elvis fan, I just want to be nosey, so my patience and wallet has it’s limits. But the hosts of Stuff You Should Know give you a mini-walkthrough and share a variety of tidbits about Elvis. For example, did you know that he died on the toilet while reading a book? And you know the first question that popped into my mind when I heard this, right? Well, what book was it? Unfortunately the hosts hadn’t researched that information, but you know me. Here’s what I found about Elvis’ reading tastes (he didn’t read any black literature if you’re wondering):

…The book he took to the bathroom just before he died was either The Force of Jesus by Frank Adams or The Scientific Search for the Face of Jesus, depending on various accounts… Elvis never made a public profession of faith in Christ, was never baptized, and never joined a church. Pastor Hamill, former pastor of First Assembly of God in Memphis, says that Presley visited him in the late 1950s, when he was at the height of his rock & roll powers, and testified: “Pastor, I’m the most miserable young man you’ve ever seen. I’ve got all the money I’ll ever need to spend. I’ve got millions of fans. I’ve got friends. But I’m doing what you taught me not to do, and I’m not doing the things you taught me to do” (Steve Turner, Hungry for Heaven, p. 20).

The night he died, he was reading the book Sex and Psychic EnergyElvis: The Last 24 Hours, p. 140) . . . Elvis traveled with a portable bookcase containing over 200 volumes of his favorite books. The books most commonly associated with him were books promoting pagan religion, such as The Prophet by Kahilil Gibran; Autobiography of a Yogi by Yogananda; The Mystical Christ by Manley Palmer; The Life and Teachings of the Master of the Far East by Baird Spalding; The Inner Life by Leadbetter; The First and Last Freedom by Krishnamurti; The Urantia Book; The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception; the Book of Numbers by Cheiro; and Esoteric Healing by Alice Bailey. Elvis was a great fan of occultist Madame Blavatsky. He was so taken with Blavatsky’s book The Voice of Silence, which contains the supposed translation of ancient occultic Tibetan incantations, that he “sometimes read from it onstage and was inspired by it to name his own gospel group, Voice” (Goldman, Elvis, p. 436). Another of Elvis’s favorite books was The Impersonal Life, which supposedly contains words recorded directly from God by Joseph Benner. Biographer Albert Goldman says Elvis gave away hundreds of copies of this book over the last 13 years of his life. (Source: The Religion of Elvis)

You can also read the articles that inspire the Stuff You Should Know podcasts at How Stuff Works.com. Look at how much I learned. I mean, who would have thought that Elvis enjoyed reading? I didn’t know, but then again, I wasn’t a fan. Find out more about Elvis (that will make you believe he had some serious mental issues) at Elvis: Thirty Years After His Death, including facts about his affiliations with Nixon, the Black Panther Party, and Muhammad Ali. Did you know he recorded over 600 songs in his lifetime and didn’t write a single one? Hmph. I could tell you more here, but then what work would I get done today?

Happy reading, y’all.

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3 thoughts on “Stuff I Know About Elvis

  1. Interesting stuff about Elvis. I no longer live in Memphis, but still call it home. Most older Black Memphians (myself included) cringe when someone visiting the area asks about touring Graceland. For most of us, Graceland is something we hurry up and drive by (or try to avoid) on our way somewhere else (smile). I would love to see the city invest some resources in the blighted community around Graceland.

    Anyway, getting back to Elvis. Even though I had heard he’d died in the John reading a book, I never knew he was a “reader.” His reading preferences suggest, perhaps, an interest in spirituality. He might not have been a “religious” man, but I have heard from others that a Gospel album he recorded is one of his best.

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  2. I never imagined Elvis to be a reader myself. I’m going to get to Graceland one of these days. I love touring historic homes. Did you know he outbid the YMCA for that house? Stuff You Should Know shared some really interesting facts.

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  3. ok. take it from someone who has researched The King since I was a child. Elvis was literally obsessed with his fame & fortune. He always wanted to know why him of all people? The man made an impact on this world the likes of which we will never see again. The key to understanding Elvis is his human side. His experiences. Elvis saw everyone as equal. No color, no anything. People could learn so much from this man. (by the way, there is no 1 accepted answer as to how he died. His bathroom had a huge reading chair, a huge closet & dressing room. Due to a twisted colon that he was born with, the man was absolutely miserable during the last years. What people perceived as “fat” was mostly water retention & backed up toxins from his digestive problems. Of course he had his faults just like anyone else. But, what do you think having to live up to a god-like image everyday did to the human side of him? Considering his health issues, I think he did a fine job. Odds are, his stomach was bothering him like usual. Either from a sudden massive heart attack, or am allergic reaction to numerous meds, he fell & even crawled a few feet before he lost consciousness & ended up smothering to death in the thick shag carpeting. I’d say, he died roughly 4-5 hours before anyone found him. Elvis was highly intellectual & was fascinated by the unknown. He will always be remembered as The King.

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