Elvis: The Searcher

New HBO Doc Celebrates The Man And The Music

BY: Zak Wojnar

Without a doubt, Elvis Presley is one of the most legendary musical icons of all time. A singer without equal, his talent turned Rock and Roll from a taboo niche to a mainstream phenomenon.

Discussions of Elvis inevitably descend into debates over his race-based popularity in the African-American-dominated rock scene of the 1950s, to his toxic relationship with “Colonel” Tom Parker, and his addiction to prescription drugs during his final years in Las Vegas.

A new documentary seeks to cut through the jargon of Elvis’s complicated life and dive deep into the eternal legacy of his music. Elvis Presley: The Searcher is a two-night, three-hour presentation of the life and times of Rock and Roll’s greatest performer, with particular focus on his musical journey. From his youth at Sun Records in Memphis to his final concerts in Vegas, The Searcher follows Elvis’s evolution as a musician while interviewing his friends, fans, and fellow rock stars.

One of Elvis’s most definitive moments came in the form of his 1968 “comeback” special, simply titled Elvis, which was made after a too-long detour into the Hollywood movie business. After years of sub-par cinematic drivel (not to be confused with genuine classics like King Creole and Jailhouse Rock), Elvis was courted back to music with a brand new television special.

The legend goes that the NBC network originally pitched the project as a Christmas special, and that Presley’s manager, “Colonel” Parker, was ecstatic at the prospect of Elvis dressed as Santa, singing carols for kids and old ladies… Elvis was unimpressed, but producer Bob Finkel and director Steve Binder (The T.A.M.I. Show, Hullabaloo) had other ideas.

Along with Elvis himself, Finkel and Binder ignored Parker’s wishes for a kitschy and disposable program and crafted a showcase of Elvis’s talent and pure charisma. Opening with an extreme close-up of Elvis singing a medley of Trouble (from King Creole) and Guitar Man (by country legend Jerry Reed), and closing with a brand new song, If I Can Dream (seen above, with new music by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, recorded in 2012).

The special was everything Elvis believed in: punk rock attitude, electric sexual energy, and emotionally raw theatricality, and a testament to the man, who was more than just a legend: there has never been, nor will there ever be, another talent like that of Elvis Presley, the King of Rock and Roll.

Elvis Presley: The Searcher, debuts April 14 on HBO. The soundtrack album releases on April 6.