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Elvis Presley poses for a family portrait with his parents Vernon Presley and Gladys Presley in 1937 in Tupelo, Mississippi.
Elvis Presley poses for a family portrait with his parents Gladys Presley and Vernon Presley in 1937 in Tupelo, Miss.Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Elvis Presley poses for a family portrait with his parents Vernon Presley and Gladys Presley in 1937 in Tupelo, Mississippi.
Elvis as a child in early 1940's.
Elvis at approximately 9 years old.
Elvis at approximately 12 years old.
Elvis performs on in Tampa, Florida, 1955.
Elvis is surrounded by his enthusiastic teenage fans in Houston, TX., 1956.
Elvis performs outside to adoring fans on September 26, 1956 in his hometown of Tupelo, Mississippi.
Elvis and his manager Colonel Tom Parker sit at a typewriter in front of the a picture of the RCA Victor Dog in circa 1956 in Memphis, Tennessee.
Elvis swivels his hips as he performs with his band onstage during his second appearance on 'The Ed Sullivan Show,' New York, New York, October 28, 1956.
Opening of 'Love Me Tender' movie at the Paramount Theater, New York, on November 15, 1956.
Rock and roll musicians Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash as "The Million Dollar Quartet" December 4, 1956 in Memphis, Tennessee. This was a one night jam session at Sun Studios.
Elvis strolls the grounds of his Graceland estate in, Memphis, Tenn. circa 1957.
Elvis in the movie "Jailhouse Rock" 1957, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
Elvis mourns the death of his mother Gladys with his father at Graceland, August, 14, 1958.
Wearing only underwear, singing star turned US Army Pvt. Elvis Presley (3L) raises his arms along w. several other inductees during an inspection at Ft. Chaffee, Alaska, March 1, 1958.
Rocker/Corporal Elvis wearing uniform while chatting w. fans through window as girlfriend Priscilla Beaulieu sits beside him in back seat of car, Germany, 1960.
Frank Sinatra (left) welcomed special guest star Elvis Presley home from the Army. A highlight from the show featured a medley by Sinatra and Presley of each other's songs. 1960.
Swedish-American actress, singer and dancer Ann-Margret and Elvis promoting the movie "Viva Las Vegas", 1964.
Elvis Presley and Priscilla on their wedding day, May 01,1967.
Elvis Presley during his '68 Comeback Special on NBC.
Elvis Presley shows President Richard Nixon his cuff links, during a visit to The White House. December 21, 1970.
Elvis with his wife Priscilla and their daughter Lisa-Marie pose for a portrait, 1970's.
Elvis Presley in his driveway at Graceland, circa 1970's.
Elvis performs at Madison Square Garden, New York City, June 1972,
Fans weep and pay tribute to Elvis at Forest Hill Cemetery Midtown, in Memphis, Tenn. August 19, 1977.
Elvis At The Mosque Theater
Elvis Presley poses for a family portrait with his parents Gladys Presley and Vernon Presley in 1937 in Tupelo, Miss.
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
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See the Evolution of The King Through Elvis Presley's Life in Pictures

Aug 15, 2017

TIME Magazine's first-ever consideration of Elvis Presley, a snippet review of the single Heartbreak Hotel in 1956, did not contain many clues about what was to come.

"A new singer with a new twist: a double voice that alternates between a high, unpleasant quaver, reminiscent of Johnnie Ray at his fiercest, and a rich basso that might be smooth if it were not for its spasmodic delivery," the reviewer quipped. "Heartbreak Hotel, yelps the high voice, is where he's going to get away from it all. Answers the basso: he'll be sorry."

It didn't take long, however, for that critic to be put in his place. One reader wrote in to say that TIME had better watch its mouth when talking about "the new god of the beanie brigade and the kiss-me-quick clique" or else the magazine would have "all of young America" to answer to. A group of 43 Elvis fans from Connecticut penned a group letter to just that effect: "If you think the teen-agers of this country are taking the slander you printed about our man Elvis you are sadly mistaken," they wrote.

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Sure enough, in the two decades that followed, the world would hear that once-dismissed voice from every radio and jukebox around. Even though the man died 40 years ago, at age 42, on Aug. 16, 1977, his influence continues to this day.

Michelle Molloy, who edited this photo essay, is a senior photo editor at TIME.

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