The Cause of Elvis’ Death Is Still Debatable

Director Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis, which came out on June 24, is the most recent attempt to chronicle the King of Rock’s rise to fame, marriage, and legacy. Starring Austin Butler, the film has a 94% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes at the time of writing. Luhrmann’s depiction is flashy, over-the-top, and clearly what audiences are looking for.

The movie has reignited interest in the Mississippi-born musical legend, who had a life rife with drug addiction and an unexpected death at 42. The musician and film star rose to fame in 1956 with his first number one single “Heartbreak Hotel.” From there, he became known for his performances (In 2011, The Guardian chronicled when he was known as “Elvis the Pelvis”) and the frantic crowds who would attend his shows. By the end of his life, according to CNN, Presley was nominated for 14 Grammys, winning three, as well as a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. As an actor, Elvis starred in 31 films and two concert documentaries.

That’s not to mention Presley’s home, Graceland, which sees thousands of visitors each year who seek to learn more about Presley’s legacy. It’s a National Historic Landmark, and according to PEOPLE, Presley is also buried on the property alongside his mother. During his lifetime, the place was known for Presley’s costly grocery list, his pet chimpanzee, and even a room that briefly became a recording studio for the musician.

With Elvis once again recounting the rock n’ roll legend’s life, there’s also a renewed interest in how the King died. Here’s what we know.

How Did Elvis Presley Die?

On August 16, 1977, Presley’s girlfriend Ginger Alden found the singer unresponsive on his bathroom floor in his home, Graceland. He was rushed to the hospital, but was then declared dead from cardiac arrest at 3:30pm.

Although the direct reason for his death is clear, there’s still questions over whether or not Elvis’s rampant drug use contributed to his death. According to Town and Country Magazine, in the last 20 months of the singer’s life he was prescribed 12,000 pills and carried three suitcases of drugs with him.

Controversy persists over his death though because of the Presley family’s understandable urge to keep details over Presley’s passing private, and Tennessee’s Medical Chief at the time, Jerry Francisco, who according to PEOPLE, stated the singer’s death was due to heart disease, and not pharmaceuticals. Francisco’s comments contradict that of other medical professionals, who believe drugs had to be a factor in the singer’s death.

Although Graceland is open to the public, to this day, Elvis’ bedroom (and the entire upstairs) is not open to the public due to the intense interest in the singer’s death. Only members of the Presley family and the Graceland curator are allowed in, and since the home opened up to visitors in 1982, celebrities and even presidents have been turned away from viewing the King’s room. According to PEOPLE though, one person has made it inside: Nicolas Cage, who is apparently an Elvis superfan and was married to Lisa Marie Presley from 2002 to 2004.

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