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Elvis Presley, who died 34 years ago today, spurs fresh tears

August 16, 2011 |  9:38 am

Elvis_Presley_vigil_at_Graceland
Elvis Presley died 34 years ago today, and since then he's been lionized and immortalized, morphing into an iconic celebrity whose popularity continues to transcend age and culture -- and seemingly knows no bounds. He's even been brought back to life -- via CGI -- for an "American Idol" duet with Celine Dion.

Obviously, there's one thing Elvis Presley failed to accomplish: to be forgotten.

This week, an estimated 20,000 people descended on Elvis' Graceland estate in Memphis, Tenn., the site of his final resting place, to hold a candlelight vigil to remember the man whose trademark sideburns, sequined jump suit and swiveling hips launched countless imitators. Locally, fans visited his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Among those attending the Graceland vigil for the legend, who died Aug. 16, 1977, was 60-year-old Joe Makowski. He told a reporter that he saw Elvis in concert 81 times, and tries to make the vigil each August. "The biggest thing I get out of it is seeing the young fans that weren't even born until years after he passed away," he said.

Photos: Elvis in film

That's not surprising given Elvis' enduring popularity. He recently ranked No. 2 on Forbes' list of top-earning deceased celebrities -- those whose estates continue to rake in the dough. His estate pulled in $60 million from visits to Graceland, a Las Vegas Cirque du Soleil show and 15,000 Elvis-licensed products such as the Mr. Potato Head Elvis, complete with that jet-black pompadour and signature white jump suit. (There's also a version clad in black leather, rocking a mike.)

Elvis has the potential to reap more this year. This year, the anniversary of Elvis' death coincides with the 55th anniversary of the release of his first albums. To commemorate those momentous occasions, a five-CD boxed set called "Young Man With the Big Beat" is set to go on sale Sept. 27. Expect the first two Presley albums, rare live recordings, outtakes and interviews, plus an 80-page book.

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--Rene Lynch
Twitter / renelynch

Photo: Fans from all over the world gather Monday at the gates of Graceland in Memphis, Tenn., for a candlelight vigil marking the 34th anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley. Credit: Jim Weber / The Commercial Appeal

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