In July 1977, Elvis Presley took the stage for what would be one of his final concert performances, drawing thousands of fans to an arena in Rapid City, South Dakota. Though clearly past his prime, Elvis poured his heart and soul into singing “Unchained Melody.” While he would make a few more concert appearances following this CBS special Elvis In Concert, this particular performance went down as one of his last and most memorable before his untimely passing in August 1977.
Presley’s rendition of “Unchained Melody” became one of the most acclaimed in music history, selling millions of copies and cementing his recording as a classic of the burgeoning rock and roll era. The concert footage shows an Elvis who was visibly unwell, seeming to struggle for breath as he addressed the audience before taking a seat at the piano to accompany himself. Yet once he began to sing, his powerful voice remained strong and moving as he performed the familiar ballad.
Though his youth had faded and his fame was dwindling, Elvis sang with passion and poignancy, as if sensing the end was near. Perhaps as he sang “Wait for me,” he was harkening back to past glories, hoping to recapture what he once was. But less than three months later, his body and mind would succumb to the tolls of time, leaving his final great performance as a bittersweet swan song. A fitting yet all too fleeting last glimpse of the legendary artist.