I have taken one of the 56 seats at the Bertha DocHouse, in The Brunswick Centre, to see a film by Ghost in the Machine about Elvis Presley, and America, entitled “The King”. He himself once said from the stage: “…but I, I haven’t been caught up in this thing and I can’t accept this kingship thing…”.
Many have attested to their experience of the loss of a twin at any stage in life, including in utero, and this group includes Elvis. The title of the book by satirist Peter Cook, “Tragically I was an only twin”, has a depth of pathos.
Elvis Presley’s parents had eloped on three dollars when Gladys (Love Smith) was twenty and Vernon (Elvis Presley) was sixteen. Once they were married and she became pregnant, Vernon’s father helped him to build a two room shotgun house of 400 sq ft, without plumbing, next to his own four room home.
Gladys had a suspicion that she was carrying twins but no medical confirmation. When she went into labour on a January night in 1935, a group gathered at her home to support her. By the light of coal fired lanterns, a stillborn boy, whom his parents named Jesse Garon, was delivered. He would later be buried in a shoebox near the graves of other family members.
Vernon’s father then laid his hand on Gladys’s abdomen and detected another baby. The local doctor was called (his fifteen dollar fee would be raised by a whip-round) and thirty five minutes after the delivery of Jesse, Elvis Aron was born.
Gladys would conceive again a few years later, only to miscarry.
When Elvis was three, his father forged a cheque. In consequence, Gladys and Elvis went to live with relatives while he served an eight month jail sentence. When Elvis was thirteen, the family moved from Tupelo to Memphis. During the period of Elvis’s military service in 1958, on 14 August, his mother died at the age of 46.
Aretha Franklin had been born at home in Memphis seven years after the birth of Elvis. There is no record of their ever having met, but the female backing singers, the Sweet Inspirations, worked with Elvis and Aretha respectively on occasion. Aretha Franklin has recently died, on August 16, 2018. Elvis died, at the age of 42, on August 16, 1977.
The actor Susan Anton, who had a much publicised relationship with Dudley Moore in the early 1980s, recounts of Elvis at a party :
“…he turned to me and said he had something to show me in his bedroom, so I thought, “Oh, here comes the cliche,”. Turns out, he just wanted to read to me from Khalil Gibran’s “The Prophet”.”
Elvis Presley once said: “The big people don’t need me. It’s the little people that need me.”. Given the circumstances of his birth, I’m all the more moved when I hear him sing: “I can feel his hand in mine and that’s enough for me.”.