Beck column: Elvis was king of gospel music

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Elvis Aaron Presley was born on Jan. 8, 1935. Most everyone knows some of the history of his life and many of us were (and still are) true Elvis fans. I thought he was the best-looking man I’ve ever seen and even now I love to hear him sing, especially gospel music.
In the beginning of his career, many parents didn’t want their kids to watch or listen to him because of his gyrating moves and sexy ways. (Lord, help, look at what is on television today.)
As his stardom rose, even older people became his fans.
During the month of January and again during August, in remembrance of his death (Aug. 16, 1977), there are several programs on public television about him. I have heard these recordings many times over the years and last week there were several interesting things told about the “Christian” Elvis.
There are those who judge him as having been addicted to drugs and alcohol. He was condemned for the number of women in his life, his failed marriages, and other vices.
Elvis was raised as an only child by a Christian mother and as many little boys do, he idolized his mama. I have always believed that he never really got over her death and had she lived through more of his career, perhaps his life would have been different.
Elvis had a love for gospel music and I believe he had a personal relationship with the Lord. Some of the people who knew him intimately told interesting things that happened, as follows:
So many of his fans called Elvis “the King” and he didn’t really like this. Once in a concert, a long row of women stood up with a huge banner proclaiming him “King.”
It was told that he stopped the music and said, “Jesus Christ is our King” or something close to that.
At another concert, he was getting sick with the flu and didn’t come out at the opening when he normally would have. Someone went and found him backstage on his knees asking God to give him strength to present a pleasing concert because “these people paid a lot of money tonight and came a long way to hear me.”
When Elvis first announced that he wanted to make a gospel album, the record producers and others tried to stop him from doing so but he loved to “worship the Lord through song” and his gospel music is still bought and loved by so many folks.
There was a televangelist, Rev. Rex Humbard, that Elvis loved to watch. When he came on, Elvis would stop everything else to hear him preach. When Humbard and his wife visited Elvis in Las Vegas at a concert, he was invited backstage and they prayed together on their knees.
Humbard told a story on PBS about how he talked to Elvis about being a “bell sheep.” He explained how a lead sheep in a flock has a bell around its neck which causes the other sheep to follow him. He told Elvis that because of all the fans who worshiped him that he believed Elvis could win fans over to worship the true King, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Did Elvis lead people to Christ? We will never know, but I believe God is a forgiving, loving God and knows the plans He has for us.
Humbard was asked by Elvis’ father to speak at the funeral in August 1977. Elvis was a sinner just like the rest of us, but I think his death probably led a lot of people to the Lord and his music possibly continues to do so. When I hear him sing, “How Great thou Art,” I know who he is praising. Do you?
Linda Beck lives in Woodleaf. Contact her at