Elvis Presley’s Death: The Details Behind the King of Rock & Roll’s Passing

circa 1955: American rock 'n roll singer Elvis Presley (1935 - 1977) with a twelve string guitar.
circa 1955: American rock ‘n roll singer Elvis Presley (1935 – 1977) with a twelve string guitar.

Hulton Archive/Getty

It’s been more than four decades since Elvis Presley‘s death in 1977, but the King of Rock & Roll’s legacy has been kept alive in countless ways.

The musical icon behind classics including “Hound Dog” and “Jailhouse Rock” topped the charts with 18 No. 1 songs and has sold more than one billion records. He is still one of the most beloved artists of all time, more than half a century since his first release in 1956.

In addition to his musical legacy, Elvis was a father to Lisa Marie Presley, whom he welcomed with Priscilla Presley in 1968. Lisa — who was just 9 years old when her father died — was a singer herself and lived a life in the spotlight, in addition to being a mom to four children.

Upon his death, she became the joint heir to his estate alongside her grandfather Vernon Presley and great-grandmother Minnie Mae Hood Presley. When they died in 1979 and 1980, respectively, Presley became the sole heir, and also inherited her dad’s Graceland residence.

On Thursday evening, Lisa’s mother Priscilla confirmed to PEOPLE that she had died after being rushed to the hospital for a possible cardiac arrest earlier in the day.

“It is with a heavy heart that I must share the devastating news that my beautiful daughter Lisa Marie has left us,” Priscilla said in a statement. “She was the most passionate strong and loving woman I have ever known. We ask for privacy as we try to deal with this profound loss. Thank you for the love and prayers.”

Here’s everything to know about Elvis’ death in 1977 at age 42.

How did Elvis Presley die?

Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley

Archive Photos/Getty

Elvis died of a heart attack on Aug. 16, 1977. The “preliminary autopsy findings” indicated that the cause of death was “cardiac arrhythmia,” according to Dr. Jerry Francisco, the Shelby County coroner, who conducted a two-hour examination of the body.

Initially, the coroner was unable to uncover the cause of the arrhythmia, prompting speculation that the singer might have died as a result of a drug overdose based on published reports that 10 prescription drugs were found in his body.

However, the New York Times confirmed in October that drugs were ruled out as a cause of Elvis’ passing — “although prescription drugs were found in his body at the time of his death,” noted the outlet — with a statement issued by Dr. Francisco.

Newlyweds Elvis and Priscilla Presley, who met while Elvis was in the Army, prepare to board their private jet following their wedding at the Aladdin Resort and Casino in Las Vegas
Newlyweds Elvis and Priscilla Presley, who met while Elvis was in the Army, prepare to board their private jet following their wedding at the Aladdin Resort and Casino in Las Vegas

Bettmann/Getty

“The cause of death has been ascribed to hypertensive heart disease, with coronary artery heart disease as a contributing factor,” read the report. Dr. George Nichopoulos, Elvis’ friend and physician, said that he didn’t think the singer had a drug problem, despite having “abused drugs accidentally.”

Prior to his death, Elvis dealt with several health problems and was hospitalized four times in five years to receive treatment for hypertension and an impacted or enlarged colon. He also suffered from mild diabetes and a liver problem.

Despite the coroner’s ruling, rumors continued to swirl about the involvement of drugs in his demise. Several of his family members have spoken on the extent of his usage, including Elvis’ step-brother (and road bodyguard), David E. Stanley, in his memoir My Brother Elvis: The Final Years.

Stanley wrote that his job requirements were more like “babysitting,” adding, “I felt more like a nursing home aide.” He told PEOPLE in 1989, “I wasn’t able to fully grasp what was happening, and was no match for Elvis in the throes of addiction,” and added, “I had this naïve belief that Elvis could do anything, even overcome a prescription drug addiction.”

Where did Elvis Presley die?

Elvis Presley On The Ed Sullivan Show
Elvis Presley On The Ed Sullivan Show

CBS Photo Archive/Getty

The King of Rock & Roll was found unconscious by his then-girlfriend Ginger Alden at his Graceland home in Memphis, Tennessee. Specifically, he was discovered lying on the floor in the bathroom of his master suite — his most private refuge, where only his closest confidantes were allowed to enter.

Graceland, an 18-room, $1 million mansion with a jukebox at the poolside, was where Elvis went to escape the pressures of fame. Although Graceland has been open to the public since 1982, the second floor was sealed shut out of respect for the family.

Graceland has become known for many things, including the iconic “jungle room”-turned-recording studio — as well as the kitchen, where he cooked up his famed peanut butter and banana sandwiches. It also includes the meaningful Meditation Garden, where Elvis is buried alongside his relatives.

How old was Elvis Presley when he died?

Elvis was born in Tupelo, Mississippi, on Jan. 8, 1935. He was 42 years old when he died.

What legacy did Elvis Presley leave behind?

Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley

Hulton Archive/Getty

Elvis rose to fame in the mid-1950s, quickly evolving into one of the biggest names in rock-‘n-roll history. Having largely contributed to the musical genre’s development, there’s a reason why he’s regarded as “The King.”

Fans, supporters and family members of Elvis have kept his legacy alive in the decades that followed his death in 1977. Between movies recounting his supernova career and countless song covers of his catalogue, the King of Rock & Roll has left an impact on generations and future ones to come.

On the 25th anniversary of Elvis’ death, his daughter Lisa Marie paid tribute to her dad with a recording in which she said, “I wanted you to know that I haven’t forgotten. You made me. I love you. You’re still lovely. You were lovely then,” according to a 2002 PEOPLE article.

lisa-marie
lisa-marie

Courtesy Graceland

Most recently, Priscilla honored Elvis on the 45th anniversary of his death in August 2022, speaking about what the day meant to her during an interview on the TODAY show. “Anything he wanted to do or wished to do as far as in life, I want to try to get that to happen,” she said. “It’s a big responsibility.”

On Aug. 15 each year, Graceland livestreams a candlelight vigil held at the property; in 2022, 30,000 fans and supporters of the beloved singer showed up. “To see the amount of people that still come to see Elvis is unbelievable,” Priscilla said on TODAY.

In June, the life and music of Elvis was explored in the Baz Luhrmann-directed film of the same name. The King of Rock & Roll was played by Austin Butler, who said he felt immense pressure to honor the legacy of the late musical icon.

His portrayal received genuine praise from Presley’s family directly — PriscillaLisa Marie and granddaughter Riley Keough, specifically.

“I can’t even put into words how much it means to me because I felt so much responsibility to them the entire time,” Butler told PEOPLE.

How did the public react to Elvis Presley’s death?

Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley

GAB Archive/Redferns

The world was in shock upon learning the news of Elvis’ death. Approximately 25,000 people — family, friends and fans of the singer — swarmed to Graceland in 1977 to catch one last glimpse of the musician they deemed “King” ahead of his burial.

During a recent interview with TodayPriscilla opened up about the day she said goodbye.

“I was still shocked. It was just too hard to believe,” she said. “And going out the gates in the limo and seeing the streets lined up on both sides all the way to the cemetery. You’d see glimpses, you’d see people crying, hysterical, fainting, and that’s how impactful it was and still to this day. People come around the same time and they’re all there.”

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