When Did Elvis Die?

Veronica Litt

On June 26, 1977, Elvis Presley performed one of his signature hysteria-inducing concerts in Indianapolis. “If you think I’m nervous,” he joked to the enormous crowd, “you’re right.”

Tragically, Elvis was right to sense that something was wrong. This would be his last concert ever. The King of Rock and Roll died just over a month later on August 16, 1977.

Elvis Editorial

When Did Elvis Die?

After revolutionizing American music with songs like “I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You” and “Jailhouse Rock,” Elvis Presley died in his home at Graceland Mansion. The King, as he was called, left behind millions of grieving fans, his fiancée Ginger Alden, and his daughter Lisa-Marie Presley.

It’s Not “When Did Elvis Die?”—It’s “Why?”

While we know when Elvis passed away, the question of why he perished is harder to answer.

Alden’s discovery of the body was not a pretty sight. Elvis’s fiancée found the singer unconscious and unresponsive, lying face-first on the floor of the master bathroom. Even worse, the singer seemed to have frozen and fallen straight down in the middle of using the commode. Alden called an ambulance, but the damage was done. Though hospital staff attempted to revive Elvis, he was declared dead at 3:30 PM.

After the post-mortem exam, doctors declared that the King died of a heart attack and even specified that no drugs were involved, despite the fact that the toxicology report hadn’t been returned. When the toxicology report was released, it became clear that this was not the whole story. Elvis did not die of a mere heart attack.

Elvis with US President Richard Nixon

The Dark Side of Fame

While many rock and roll stars were rumored drug users, Elvis’s family and team had managed to keep his own struggles relatively quiet. That’s why fans found the post-mortem so devastating. It was only after Elvis’s death that the public truly understood the severity of his addiction. The King of Rock and Roll relied heavily on opiates and Quaaludes, taking a variety of medications in inappropriate doses.

Unfortunately for Presley, his doctor, the notorious Dr. Nichopoulos, had prescribed over 8,000 doses of various medications in his last two years of life. Eventually, Nichopoulos’s questionable conduct would catch up to him. The Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners suspended his license permanently in 1995. But for Elvis fans, the damage was done. The King was dead.

An Unfortunate End

Because of Elvis’s substantial drug use, the singer experienced profound constipation, lending further indignity to his tragic death. Doctors revealed that Elvis passed away while attempting to defecate. The specific term for Elvis’s cause of death is the valsalva maneuver, where the strain of attempting a bowel movement puts so much pressure on the abdominal aorta that it prompts a heart attack.

And so, years of hard living and a wayward doctor’s endless prescription pad led to the King of Rock and Roll’s death on August 16, 1977. His funeral was scheduled just two days later, which should have ended the sad saga of Elvis’ death—but even burial didn’t mark the end of Elvis’s dramatic story.

Don’t Be Cruel

Elvis was buried next to his mother at Forest Hill Cemetery—or at least he was until an attempt was made to steal his corpse. Three men planned to steal the body and ransom it for millions of dollars. After that, Elvis and his mother were reinterred at Graceland Mansion, where they remain to this day.

In a truly wild twist, however, the FBI informant who revealed this scheme back in 1977 later changed his story, saying the whole thing was an elaborate cover-up. Apparently, the Presley family always wanted Elvis to rest at Graceland and staged the corpse robbery to get the County to allow the special-circumstances burial. Hmm…

When did Elvis die editorialWikimedia Commons
Elvis’s burial site at Graceland

When Did Elvis Die? Trick Question

But for some hard-core fans, not even this is enough of a jaw-dropping twist. Ever since Elvis’ death, some of the hip-swinging entertainer’s followers have insisted that the whole thing was a conspiracy. For this unique subset of Elvis devotees, the singer didn’t die—he faked his own death to escape the spotlight and live in hiding.

While, to the best of our knowledge, Elvis really did pass away on August 16, 1977, we understand why people have trouble saying goodbye. In his last concert, Elvis sang, “Do you miss me tonight?” Yes indeed. All hail the King.

Sources1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

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