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Week in Rock History: Elvis Dies at Graceland

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August 16, 1977: Elvis Presley found dead in the bathroom of Graceland
Well, according to most people. To a few conspiracy theorists, he’s alive in the rural South and/or hanging out with aliens. But historical consensus and police reports date the death of the King to a muggy afternoon in 1977, when he had a heart attack in the bathroom of his Graceland mansion. He was 42.

That evening, Presley was scheduled to depart from Memphis on an extensive tour. It was his attempt to recapture public goodwill that had been heavily tarnished by erratic recent performances and the lurid tell-all book Elvis: What Happened?, which detailed the singer’s drug abuse and other unhealthy habits. Due to the book, a substance overdose was also implied as a cause of his death for many years, though that theory was debunked by the coroner who reopened Presley’s autopsy in 1994.

Presley’s memorial was held at Graceland two days after his death; an estimated 80,000 people gathered along the funeral route, and several thousand more assembled to view the casket.

August 14, 1985: Michael Jackson buys the publishing rights to over 250 Lennon-McCartney songs
Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson met in the 1970s and became fast friends – so much so that McCartney constantly urged Jackson to take more control of his financial security. McCartney insisted that investing in music publishing rights was the best path to wealth in their industry, and Jackson took it to heart in 1985 – when he entered into a cutthroat bidding war with McCartney for the rights to the Beatles song oeuvre. Jackson won and ponied up $47.5 million for the rights to more than 250 songs that McCartney had cowritten with John Lennon.

Jackson’s move was shrewd; the Lennon-McCartney catalog swelled to an estimated $1 billion in value through commercial use. But it effectively ended his friendship with Macca. Jackson sold part of thecatalog to Sony Music in 1995 and reportedly said that in the event of his death, he wanted the Beatles rights to revert to McCartney. However, Jackson’s estate and Sony currently retain the rights to the band’s songs.

LAST WEEK: Jerry Garcia Dies; Janis Joplin Performs in Concert for the Last Time

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