The U.S. Postal Service has finally caught up with millions of music fans across the country: Elvis is Forever.
The post office has just reissued its second Elvis Presley stamp in 22 years. The new “forever” stamp costs 49 cents, but it will be good for first-class mail for, well, ever.
The stamp boasts a black-and-white portrait of a pensive, 20-year-old Elvis taken by Memphis, Tenn. photographer William Speer in 1955, a year before Elvis exploded on the national scene. Along the side of the stamp will be a facsimile of the singer’s signature.
In 1993, the public voted on two possible illustrations of Elvis — one young, one more mature — for a stamp to be included in the American Music Series. The younger version won by a three-to-one margin, with 851,000 votes, and still holds a record for sales.
“He will always be a valued historical cultural icon who has touched tens of millions of people worldwide with his music.”
“We printed 500 million of the original stamps, and it was an almost sell-out,” said Mark Saunders, senior spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service. “It’s the top-selling commemorative stamp, as opposed to the workhorse stamp — the standard U.S. flag stamps. Those sell in very high numbers.”
Now, the King of Rock and Roll joins soul visionary Ray Charles, psychedelic rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix, rock-blues powerhouse Janis Joplin and Mexican-American star Lydia Mendoza in the Music Icon series, which launched in 2013.
In his lifetime, Elvis starred in 31 feature films (plus two concert documentaries), won three Grammys, and recorded 18 No. 1 singles. Today, his Memphis home, Graceland, draws more than 600,000 visitors a year.
His impact as one of the architects of rock and roll cannot be overestimated, since he has influenced literally millions of musicians, from Beatle John Lennon to country star Dwight Yoakam and beyond.
“Early on, we discussed if we would we re-do Elvis,” said William J. Gicker, creative director and acting manager of stamp development. “The answer came down to, ‘How could we do a music series and not include Elvis?’ Plus, there was a lot of request for him. Elvis seemed like a natural fit.”
Elvis is not the first entertainer to grace two U.S. postage stamps (comedian Lucille Ball has appeared on three), but he now ranks as one of few artists to be featured in at least two different collections of stamps.
Marty Lacker, a longtime member of Elvis’s entourage, the Memphis Mafia, insists The King deserves a second stamp.
“He will always be a valued historical cultural icon who has touched tens of millions of people worldwide with his music,” Lacker said. “A lot of people forget that he broke down the barriers for black music and black artists with white America in the 1950s. I know the new stamp would have made him proud, as he was proud of his country.”
On the same day of the stamp issuance, the Postal Service, working with Sony Music RCA/Legacy Recordings, began selling “Elvis Forever,” a CD of 18 of Presley’s songs. The collection includes a new version, a mix with many added overdubs, of “If I Can Dream,” the emotional finale to Presley’s historic television show, best known as the 1968 Comeback Special.
“I know the new stamp would have made him proud, as he was proud of his country.”
The inspiring song, written by the late Earl Brown, is as timely today as it was in the 1960s, with Elvis calling for a unified America in singing, “If I can dream of a better land/Where all my brothers walk hand in hand/Tell me why can’t my dream come true?”
“Knowing Elvis personally, I know he meant every word he sang of Earl’s special lyrics,” said Steve Binder, director-producer of the 1968 Comeback Special. “He would be thrilled that our United States Postal Service has chosen to honor him for a second time. It proves that along with Elvis’s enormous contribution to the music world, he also is being recognized as the great humanitarian that he was and remains in so many hearts and minds of fans, new and old, around the globe.”
An official stamp dedication occurred on the front lawn of Graceland, with Priscilla Presley, Elvis’s former wife, Postmaster General Megan Brennan, and Tennessee public officials attending.
“One thing that’s really cool,” says Saunders with a laugh, “is when you get (the new stamp), you can say, ‘I’ve got Elvis’s autograph.’”
This article has been updated.