Elvis Presley would turn 80 on Thursday. Wonder what he’d be like if he were still alive and performing?
Preposterous, you say. But not all music icons retire. Tony Bennett is still going strong at 88. Willie Nelson is on the road once again — at 81. Loretta Lynn, 82, still tours. So do Frankie Valli, 80, and B.B. King, 89. And Jerry Lee Lewis, 79, one of Elvis’ contemporaries, released a pretty rockin’ record last year, “Rock & Roll Time,” with the help of Keith Richards, Neil Young and others.
So what would the King be like at age 80?
Rest assured, his hair would still be jet black. He’d still have those royal sideburns. And maybe a turned-up collar.
He’d probably be on the heavy side, sitting on a chair in concert like B.B. King does. When I saw him in a June 1977 concert in St. Paul, two months before he died, he was disappointingly paunchy. Even at 42, he didn’t look healthy — and that white jumpsuit probably made him look even bigger.
Who knows, though: Maybe he would have ditched the peanut-butter-and-banana sandwiches and gotten himself in shape so he could stand at a microphone stand, like Willie still does. After all, Elvis would have to be agile enough to bend over to hand his scarves to his female fans — one of his signature moves in concert.
The lip curl is a given — he could manage that move forever — and he’d have to give at least one hip shake and a playful karate pose.
His humor and personality would carry the show, of course. They always did in the later years.
There’s no question that the repertoire would be toned down. Actually, over the years, Elvis recorded an impressive variety of music — invigorating rock ’n’ roll, country plaints, schmaltzy ballads, gospel hymns, bluegrass yarns, Hawaiian ditties. He could do a dignified performance accompanied by an orchestra as Johnny Mathis, who turns 80 this year, still does. Or he could perform with a rockin’ combo versatile enough to dial it down when necessary.
Elvis always liked to interpret hits by current stars. So just what would he add to his set list? Beyoncé’s “Drunk in Love”? Pharrell Williams’ “Happy”? Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”?
Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me” would be right up Elvis’ alley, playing into his trademark quiver. Maybe he could mash up Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” with his own “All Shook Up.”
Lisa Marie Presley would have to be part of her father’s act. She’s not a great singer, but she has the face of the King. They could duet on a few numbers, with Lisa Marie taking the part of Shelley Fabares, Marlyn Mason and Nancy Sinatra. The outfits for father and daughter would be color-coordinated and bedecked with sparkly studs and gaudy jewels.
Lisa Marie might want to drag her musical kids into the act, but that should be vetoed. Perhaps Elvis’ manager, Col. Tom Parker, would resurrect himself (at age 105) to convince the King that the kids don’t belong. Even though he died in 1997, I can envision Colonel Tom backstage, collecting his share of the receipts after every single show as the announcement is being made: “Elvis has left the building.”
Withering Glance returns next week.