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The 30th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death is being marked today, Thursday, Aug. 16, 2007. That date in 1977 was on a Tuesday, however, I vividly remember.
In those days, mid-August was still considered summer. Students didn’t return to their classrooms while the temperatures outside soared to triple digits.
So, as a rising college senior, I was in the latter days of serving as summer youth worker at Silvertown Baptist Church in Thomaston, Ga.
Each Tuesday, I would drive the church’s two-tone green van filled with teens to the popular Metro Bible Study, an interdenominational gathering that drew a large crowd of younger folks from the Atlanta area and beyond.
Early contemporary Christian music pioneers, like the guys with Pat Terry Group, led what would later be called “praise music” prior to the Bible study time. It was the place to be for youthful Christians of that era.
As we drove from Thomaston toward Atlanta, I made a comment to the youth about the shocking news that Elvis had just died. It was the classic case of “crying wolf” too often.
Because I was known to pull their collective legs regularly, it was obvious not a single person onboard believed I was telling the truth. Despite repeated attempts at assuring them the King was dead, they just shook their heads in disbelief.
Pulling into the parking lot of the school where the gathering took place, I noticed a tall, long-haired (not unusual for the ’70s) man walking alone toward the large assembly.
Rolling down the window, I asked for help: “Please tell them who died today.”
He shrugged his shoulders at the obvious and replied: “Elvis, man.”
My information had been verified by Mylon LeFevre, an early Christian rocker who was getting his life turned around back then.
Raised as part of the Southern gospel family group, the Singing LeFevres, Mylon had been through a prodigal experience into secular rock music that included drug addiction and failing health. He was bouncing back.
But there was some irony in that casual encounter in 1977 that did not surface in my mind until several years later when reflecting on the day that Elvis died. The person who had confirmed the sad news for my youth group had also written a song that Elvis recorded.
At age 17, LeFevre had received the ultimate songwriter’s compliment. Elvis recorded, Without Him, that Mylon had penned in 1963.

Without Him I could do nothing,
Without Him I’d surely fail;
Without Him, I would be drifting.
Like a ship without a sail.

Jesus, Oh Jesus, do you know him today?
You can’t turn him away, oh Jesus, oh Jesus.
Without him, How lost I would be.

Without Him I would be dying.
Without Him I’d be enslaved;
Without Him life would be hopeless,
But with Jesus, thank God, I’m saved.

Jesus, Oh Jesus, do you know him today?
You can’t turn him away, oh Jesus, oh Jesus.
Withoust him, How lost I would be.

A few years after the death of Elvis, Mylon formed a new Christian group called “Mylon LeFevre and Broken Heart” that stirred the faith of hordes of young people for a decade and even won a Grammy.
Now each time the anniversary of Elvis’ death rolls around I remember that summer day in August 1977, the now-grown youth from Thomaston, and that one song in particular.
It is number 200 in the Baptist Hymnal (1975) and has been recorded many times. One of my favorite renditions is by the soulful Kate Campbell on her “For the Living of These Days” CD.

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