Today in 1977, Elvis performs his last concert at Market Square Arena Indianapolis

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Today in 1977, Elvis Presley performed his last concert. The show took place at Market Square Arena in Indianapolis, Indiana. The significance of the concert is that Presley would die on Aug. 16 that same year of cardiac issues. Sites like tripsavvy.com note that the singer’s autopsy report reveal the presence of prescription drugs. Tripsavvy.com also reports that Presley’s father, Vernon, had the autopsy records sealed. They cannot be opened until 2027, 50 years from when Presley died.

The significance of Presley’s passing is found in what he offered to music. While he did not invent rock ‘n’ roll, he did help to advance the idea of what we now know is rock ‘n’ roll culture, including the idea of having a look that goes with the sound. Presley’s relative youth helped him to connect with teenagers and the idea of youth as a demographic to market to was born. In the end, Presley’s legacy was about music. His smooth mid-range tenor that could shake when he needed it to, or sound plaintive, if he wanted, is still one of the most distinctive voices in American music.

While not everyone appreciated Presley at the end of his career, the singer had early hits that made him a household name. Helped, as some would claim, by his cinematic good looks, Presley’s television appearances showed teenage girls screaming and crying hysterically. His hip gyrations were hidden by a black bar covering his mid-section in an act of mid-century censorship.

On the day that marks the date of Presley’s last concert, remembering one of his best-loved songs is appropriate.

“Hound Dog” by Elvis Presley

The Willie Mae Thornton (also known as “Big Mama”) blues original was given a new life as a rock ‘n’ roll song. Written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, Thornton’s version was recorded in 1952. Presley’s version came out in 1956. According to last.fm, five country versions were released “in 1953 alone.” And by 1964, the song had been recorded 26 times (last.fm). Somehow, though, the only versions that seem to matter to the listening public are those by Thornton and Presley.

The lyrics tell the story of someone finally telling off a no-good, former significant other. For the time period, the lyrics are blunt and reveal that the title human has no redeeming qualities.

As for its soundscape, the line up looks simple. In the popular YouTube video of the song, Presley is accompanied by an upright bass, a guitar, and a simple drum set. Each player does something to stand out in small ways. The guitar uses a hollow, country-esque sound, the bass is nimble and deep, and the drums crashes rapidly on the tom and the cymbal, giving the song needed dynamics to match Presley’s full-throated vocals. There is a sound that seems to be handclaps, but in the video, it is unclear who creates it.

Presley’s pronunciation of words like “ain’t” and “crying” give the song a no-nonsense edge. He stretches out “crying” as if to mock the too late contrition of the title character. It is a timeless song full of swagger that most people can appreciate and understand. The video features Presley’s characteristic dance moves, uncensored.

In the mid-1950s, “Hound Dog” managed to reach No. 1 on country, rock and r&b charts.

Seeing Presley young and full of potential in the video is bittersweet. That he arguably fell victim to the pitfalls of fame and is no longer here is the downside. On the other side, audiences can see how far rock ‘n’ roll has come.

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