Inside take on a Folger, Bodleian, and Ransom Center exhibition on the creation and afterlife of the King James Bible on the 400th anniversary of its publication.

The King and the King James Bible

Elvis Presley King James Bible. Courtesy Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.

Today marks the 34th anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley. Though known primarily as a rock and roll singer, Elvis had a special love for the gospel music he’d grown up with in Tupelo, Mississippi, and Memphis, Tennessee. Performances of favorites such as “How Great Thou Art” and “Peace in the Valley” earned him his only three Grammy awards and a spot in the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. The lyrics to many such gospel songs are rooted in the language of the King James Bible.

On Sunday, my local PBS station, Maryland Public Television (MPT), aired a documentary called “He Touched Me: The Gospel Music of Elvis Presley.”  It was a joy seeing and hearing Elvis perform his gospel favorites and to hear his former bandmates recall how after their shows ended, Elvis and his band would sing gospel songs and jam for friends until the sun rose.

Elvis owned many Bibles and always kept one close by. The King James Bible pictured here, normally found in Elvis’s room in Graceland, will be on display at the Folger Shakespeare Library as a part of the Manifold Greatness exhibition. The loan approval for Elvis’s Bible came shortly after news that we would not be receiving the Abraham Lincoln/Barack Obama Bible from the Library of Congress.  We were disappointed, but completely understood the decision. And after all, we might not have gotten the President, but we got the King.

Steven Galbraith, Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Books, is co-curator of the Manifold Greatness exhibition at the Folger Shakespeare Library.

6 responses

  1. Elvis Gospel music has a great place in my life,I love to hear his peace in the valley,how great thou are,and others it sends peace and calmness to anyone. God had a big hand on Elvis and he always let people know there were only one King and that was Jesus Christ.

    August 16, 2011 at 9:17 pm

  2. AMEN!!! I love it! I would prefer the King’s Bible! ;) I watched the documentary and it was so amazing. He had a beautiful heart and loved Jesus. Thank you for sharing this. I wrote this based on a dream that I had, in loving memory of Elvis…

    August 17, 2011 at 5:27 am

  3. While a bit of Memphis is going to the Folger, Memphis was excited to learn last week some of the Folger will be coming our way, as Rhodes College we will be among the first hosts of the traveling version of “Manifold Greatness,” along with our other 1611-related events:

    August 17, 2011 at 12:50 pm

  4. Ronda

    Wish we could read Elvis’ notes in the margins! Glad to know it’s a KJV!

    August 17, 2011 at 4:14 pm

  5. Pingback: Behind the Scenes: Exhibition Transformations « Manifold Greatness blog

  6. Pingback: Countdown to Friday! The Folger Exhibition Arrives « Manifold Greatness blog

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