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Pilgrimage to the King of Rock

Elvis Presley’s 77th birthday kicks off a year of celebrations for his fans across the globe

Elvis Presley fans from around the world made a pilgrimage to the Memphis home of Elvis Presley at the weekend to celebrate what would have been the King of Rock’s 77th birthday.

And the celebration of his life at his Gracelands mansion kicked off what is expected to be a year of global Elvis mania marking the 35th anniversary of the beloved icon’s death.

Memphis officials expect record numbers of visitors all year, leading to the August 16 anniversary commemoration of his death at Graceland, where the singer is buried.

In Dusseldorf, Germany, a new Elvis Presley museum opened its doors in December and next week an  Elvis Cruise departs from Florida to the Bahamas.

In Sao Paulo, Brazilian officials are planning one of the largest exhibits of Elvis memorabilia outside the United States. It is expected to open in September.

“Every five years, we see history repeat itself and we expect that to happen again this year as fans remember Elvis Presley,” said Kevin Kane, president and CEO of the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau.

He added that the city is preparing for a wave of visitors to exceed the typical 600,000 to 700,000 fans who visit Graceland each year.

Georgina Trejo, 55, from Mexico City is among the singer’s diehard fans who flew to Memphis to attend Presley’s birthday celebration last Sunday and plans to return with friends – all members of the Mexico City “Forever For Elvis Fan Club” – in August to observe his memorial ceremony.

“He sang the sound track of my life,” said Ms Trejo, who was bundled up against the blustery Memphis morning in an Elvis-illustrated jacket.

She also had a black purse painted with images of the singer dancing.

“All the important moments in my life, I can remember Elvis’s songs playing,” she said, adding that she has lost count of the number of times she has visited Graceland since the site first opened to the public in 1978.

Presley’s popularity has endured since he released Blue Suede Shoes on his first studio album Elvis Presley in 1954.

He has sold more than a billion albums since then and continues to out-earn many other living celebrities.

Forbes Magazine estimated Presley’s earnings at $55 million in 2011, exceeding contemporary superstars such as Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber.

Graceland will open three exhibits to mark the 35th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death.

Sad death of a world star

• Rock star Elvis died on August 16, 1977, aged 42.

• He was found in the bathroom of his mansion home Graceland in Memphis by his girlfriend, Ginger Alden.

• She called friends and a doctor who tried to revive him in vain.

• He had probably been dead for many hours by the time his body was found but was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital.

• Elvis suffered years of ill health due to an addiction to prescription drugs but his death came as a result of a heart attack.

• The King of Rock sold more than 500 million records worldwide and made 33 films.

• The multi-millionaire singer who still has millions of fans across the world lived a reclusive life but was famed for handing jewels and cars to friends and casual acquaintances.

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