Last Sunday, NBC aired the fiftieth-anniversary show of Elvis Presley’s 1978 comeback show. Jim and I caught the last hour.
Blake Shelton hosted, and it was packed with a lot of today’s most popular musicians, each singing a song Elvis made famous. I couldn’t help but think how much Elvis would have enjoyed watching it.
The music was great, and it looked like people in the audience were enjoying the show. But the flashback clips and the interviews with his family told the real story. Elvis might have lived—if he had lived his genuine life instead of the manufactured version Hollywood produced.
If Elvis had lived:
He would have known his family
There was something about Riley Keough that looked familiar. I couldn’t place it until she said, “My grandfather would have . . . .”
Riley Keough’s grandfather is Elvis Presley. They have the same eyes.
Maybe it was because we had spent the long weekend with Wes, our grandson, who looks just like our son Craig. Maybe it was because Jim and I had remarked dozens of times how much Wes reminds us of Craig. But, I listened to Riley Keough talk about her grandfather, a man she never got to meet, and I felt sad. Elvis Presley missed many of the most important moments of his life.
Jim and I watched the rest of the television program.
The fame caught him up
The show celebrated the amazing career of a man who was an unlikely star. Elvis was born a twin, whose brother was stillborn. He lived in a two-room house where his dad eked out a living doing odd jobs. As a boy, Elvis attended an Assembly of God church with his mother, his favorite person in life. His parents moved to Memphis, where his love for a blend of blues and country music was formed.
Presley’s music career quickly morphed into Hollywood movies. He told the Saturday Evening Post in 1956, “I just fell into it, really. My daddy and I were laughing about it the other day. He looked at me and said, ‘What happened, E? the last thing I can remember is I was working in a can factory and you were drivin’ a truck. . . . It just caught us up.”
But, Elvis Presley died at the age of forty-two, a drug addict and a sick man with a wasted life. He missed watching his daughter grow up, and he missed knowing his granddaughter. In fact, he missed most of what his life could have been if he hadn’t been “caught up” in the wrong things his life afforded.
God would have caught him
The reason I chose to write this blog post is not that I am a huge Elvis fan. There was a moment in that tribute show that caused both Jim and me to stop and take note. Carrie Underwood and Yolanda Adams were given the opportunity to share the gospel music Elvis sang. And boy, did they “share.” Their tribute was amazing.
A USA Today article began with this surprising information: “Elvis Presley may be called the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, but the only Grammy Awards he ever won were for his gospel music.”
The article describes the importance gospel music had in defining Elvis’s career. Friends said he used to warm up at the recording studio by singing sacred songs. The reporter stated, “He invited people back to his penthouse suite in Las Vegas for all-night gospel singalongs during his stint of performances in the late 1960s and ’70s at the International Hotel.”
Why didn’t the faith Elvis sang about become the faith that controlled his life?
We are supposed to use our gifts for God’s glory
I feel the same sadness for Elvis that I do for Whitney Houston. She passed because of drug addiction as well. Both of those gifted musicians missed out on living their lives because they misunderstood and misused their God-given gifts. They both got caught up in the world and lost what mattered most.
In Sunday’s show, Carrie Underwood sang “Amazing Grace” as a tribute, not so much to Elvis, but to the God Elvis knew. Gospel singer Yolanda Adams sang “He Touched Me,” and then both women sang a duet of “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” The videos are on YouTube and worth watching. These two women had the finest vocal performances of the evening, but that wasn’t the only noticeable difference. They both sang from a personal relationship with God. They were using their gifts for his glory.
They ushered the presence of Christ into the arena. It was much like the performance of Carrie Underwood and Vince Gill at the 2011 CMA awards. I hope you will take the time to watch that video from beginning to end, paying close attention to the faces in the audience.
At the time of this writing, the video has been viewed 17,701,114 times. Why?
Your giftedness can be the presence of Christ
When we use our spiritual giftedness for the glory of God, Jesus is ushered into the room. That’s what happened on both of those shows. Everyone watching knew something was different during the performance, but I hope they recognized that the something was really Someone.
I imagine Elvis would give up his earthly rewards for the chance to sing for Jesus again, like those other musicians. His earthly glory was a dead-end road, literally. And that is something all of us should consider for our own lives as well.
When last did your spiritual gifting reveal the presence of Christ to others?
You have a gift, and that gift is the way we reveal Jesus to others.
Are you using your gifts for the purpose they were given?
Your gift doesn’t have to be a performance. In fact, it probably isn’t. Your gift is simply who you are in Christ Jesus. We need to live in such a way that, when we enter the room, we bring the presence of Christ Jesus with us. His Spirit is tangible, but we have to be cautious.
Elvis and many others would warn us about using God’s gifts for our own glory. Success is using our gifts for God’s kingdom purpose. The apostle Peter said, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Peter 4:10).
How will you share your giftedness with others today?
That is how we share God with the world. We don’t share something; we share Someone.
And to him be all glory!