I saw Lisa Marine Presley died the other day. It was all over the supermarket tabloids. I don't generally pay attention to the news, sot that's where I get most of my pop culture information.
Seeing the pictures of her with her father reminded me how pervasive Elvis Presley once was in American culture. Almost every month a tabloid would report an "Elvis sighting" because of course the King of Rock 'n Roll wasn't dead, he was merely in hiding. Like James Dean, he's supposed to have faked his death to escape the pressure of celebrity.
I never understood that line of logic - celebrity status isn't a lifetime entitlement. It has to be constantly shored up, and that's what generally makes famous people succumb to drugs and depression. If you want to stop being a celebrity, stop doing anything. There are lots of celebrities who did just that and no one talks about them. Heck, Olivia de Havilland lived for decades in obscurity and was one of those people about which it was said: "She's still alive?! Amazing."
Not to digress, but James Dean would easily have vanished. His whole persona was that of an alienated youth, and without that, I'm not sure what he would have brought to the table. Yes, I'm sure the long slow retreat into either "Where are they now?" or "famous for being famous" would have been annoying, but it takes a lot less effort than faking one's death.
I'm reminded here of Dirk Benedict, who achieved considerable notoriety in the 80s as the One True Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica and then starred in the A-Team. Having made his money, he retired, surfacing briefly to denounce the feminization of his old character.
The point is that just quitting show business is pretty easy. There's always some new face for the press to fixate upon.
Anyway, not only have the Elvis sightings stopped, but I couldn't remember the last time I heard his music. The "oldies" stations these days rarely go back into the 1960s. When they do, it's to play songs recognizable through commercial licensing. Even "classic rock" formats ignore the King, which is weird because I should think his rock is about as classic as it gets.
My life only briefly overlapped his, but I know his music well because it was pervasive throughout the 80s. Indeed, one of the strange games memory plays on us is that we often associate music with events that happened years after its release because while a given song may have peaked in one year, it may well enjoy heavy airplay for many years afterwards.
In putting together playlists based on decades, I've found that the change of a calendar is pretty meaningless, and that well into (for example) the 80s, 70s music was getting plenty of use.
(As a sidebar, there's also the issue that music is continually evolving, which is why 1981 sounded very different than 1985 or 1989.)
Anyhow, it's strange how something that was once pervasive can vanish entirely.