Last year I took my 2 college boys to New York City. Among our visits, the 911 Memorial and Museum were on my list of places to visit, not theirs.  Deep down I believe they got it, but not in the same way those of us past a certain age do.

The Bicentennial year of 1976 was a year of introspection and reflection by Americans. Many within my age group were still in school, history merely a subject we had to absorb and regurgitate. Events of the past were assignments read and projects due, but underlying the busyness, we really did get it deep within too. Patriotism was real with a rich history of survival and success, lessons learned permeated.

Elvis Presley was no different. He expressed his pride in being an American and no one personified the American dream like the King. Just as those early years caused an inward look for many as the outward events surrounded us, it seemed to be the same for Elvis. While he belted American Trilogy and America the Beautiful with fervency and gratification, he also bared his soul with many more somber song choices. 

Whether simply looking for something that wasn’t there and a song is really just a song is debated, a pattern was set. Amid patriotic greats with heart pouring lyrics were soul baring lamentations sang with just as much if not more conviction, allowing us to read between the lines, especially in retrospect.

Fame has no mortgage on loneliness or regret. The heart ablaze for a tender start doesn’t know the owner’s notoriety.

Those who feel the Presley connection understand the conduit of longing. Rooms of admirers and stadiums of enthusiasts may coat the outside but the inside emptiness remains. Loneliness is a hollowness seeking fulfillment from the inside out, not to be filled by the outside seeping in. 

Solitaire is a card game for one, playing against oneself, making choices amid predicting future scenarios and opportunities. If one is both the dealer and the player, surely one is also the loser and the victor. If one is both enormously famous and inherently lonely, is it not the same?

There is a sad romanticism linked to the heart’s despondency. It’s a portion of the Presley pull, just as sure as the music and the story and the legacy. It’s one reason many of us feel the way we do about this man – the man, not the image. The image had it all, but did the man? There is a relational understanding of unintended seclusion that many grasp subconsciously because we are the same. 

I don’t believe our guy sat pining away, holed up in wretchedness with a despair of doom and gloom, bemoaning life’s tragedies. But I feel a sadness and a melancholy was often just beneath the surface. I believe he desired to be loved for himself and there’s a sadness to not finding it with certainty. Many of his late 70’s song choices reflect these thoughts.

We feel alone in a crowded room. We view the world around us carrying on while we silently watch life parading by. Joining in would be the logical choice, but for some difficult at best and for many impossible. Thoughts are deep and emotions high. For a singer to relationally convey his feelings so masterfully is an art and a testament to the man. 

Solitaire is a game for one. Sometimes it’s the only game in town. Sometimes a song is just a song. The underlying depth to Elvis Presley is a given component to his greatness and one more factor which he inadvertently possesses and shares for all time. 

These are my thoughts, Maybe it is only a song. Maybe not.

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This beautiful song is 4 minutes 44 seconds. I challenge you to quietly listen and absorb it’s richness. It’s lovely.

Solitaire 

 Words & Music by Neil Sedaka / Justin Cody 

There was a man, a lonely man

Who lost his love, thru his indifference

A heart that cared that went unshared

Until it died within his silence

And solitaire is the only game in town

And every road that takes him, takes him down

While life goes on around him everywhere

He’s playing solitaire

And keeping to himself, begins to deal

And still the king of hearts is well concealed

Another losing games comes to an end

And deals them out again

A little hope goes up in smoke

Just how it goes, goes without saying

There was a man, a lonely man

Who would command the hand he’s playing

And solitaire is the only game in town

And every road that takes him, takes him down

While life goes on around him everywhere

He’s playing solitaire

And keeping to himself, begins to deal

And still the king of hearts is well concealed

Another losing games comes to an end

And deals them out again

And solitaire is the only game in town

And every road that takes him, takes him down

While life goes on around him everywhere

He’s playing solitaire

Recorded: 1976/02/03, first released on From Elvis Presley Boulevard