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For the ardent, the living death of Elvis' sad decline might have supplied paradoxical proof of supernatural powers, but the strongest evidence of the King's capacity to outwit the Grim Reaper lies in Elvis' art itself. He outwitted--outlived--the heartbreak he sang about even as he sang about it. Like Marlon Brando, his favorite actor and another virtuoso of feline virility, the King simultaneously performed and watched himself perform. The emotions he belted out never took him in. His sobs are more like a parody of sobs. Play I Want You, I Need You, I Love You, and listen to the second phrase nearly disappear under tones of mimicry--the title's order of emotions expresses the singer's ironic detachment. (Yes, there was irony in the '50s.)
Standing at an angle to his performances, leaping from style to style, manipulating his physical appearance, Elvis gave the impression of a man enduring beyond whatever external conditions fate pitched in his path. He gave the impression, gesture by gesture, of having come, or run, a long way--he was Huck Finn with a guitar. Before such artfulness, death ain't nothin' but a hound dog. The only dismaying quality about the remix of A Little Less Conversation, which is a lot of fun to listen to, is the splicing in of techno sounds, electronic warps and woofs that are like the revenge of impersonal forces on a profoundly original man who thrust and sneered and sobbed (chuckled) impersonal forces away. But the King will outlive his immortality also: "Honey, lay off them shoes." Happy anniversary, Elvis, wherever you are.