It happened today - August 16, 2015

Elvis Do you realize that if Elvis Presley were alive today, he’d be dead? No, really.

The idea that Elvis did not die back on August 16, 1977 rapidly went from a sentimental fad to a stock joke, with him abducted by aliens, going back to his home planet in Men in Black, living in suburbia, appearing on the Simpsons.

Revealingly, I wrote that last bit before bothering to Google and there he is in eight separate episodes in one way or another. He would be. He’s that kind of icon. But here’s the thing. Elvis was born on January 8, 1935. So if he were alive today he’d be 80. And there isn’t much about his lifestyle that suggests longevity, from the speed to the fried peanut butter sandwiches. He’d have died older at some point in between.

Yes, older. It’s odd how if someone dies prematurely, they are fixed forever in our minds as being that age. It is true that, for instance, all those boys who lie in rows in Normandy really are forever 21, or 18, or 27 in the sense that they did not get to experience growth into full adulthood and then maturity and worse. Age did not weary them, nor the years condemn. But there is therefore no 42-year-old version of them to imagine “if they were alive today” in the 1960s, and no 90-year-old version for today.

Likewise we have no 75-year-old Elvis to imagine hiding somewhere and smirking at all the fuss in 2010. If he didn’t die, we somehow suppose, he’d be 42 from then on though, ideally, without all the sequins. I’m a pretty big Elvis fan, but his wardrobe and his sound did get a bit off the rails in the 1970s. Still, who among us? The point is, when people first denied that he was dead, he would have looked much the way he did in 1977. But gradually he’d have kept getting older. Until one day he didn’t.

I remember being more than a little surprised by this consideration in the case of my own father, who died fairly young 20 years ago. I’d been thinking what he might look like “now”, partly by comparison with a cousin who had always looked a lot like him and is now well past the age at which my father died. And then it struck me that had he not died when he did, time, chance and various health problems would probably have gotten him at some other point since anyway.

In my mind there were only two conditions; him being alive and him dying on the actual day he did. But of course there are plenty of other scenarios and in all of them, at some point, the curtain comes down. Ditto for Elvis Presley.

So even if “Elvis lives” he dies eventually. And almost certainly in the past by this point.