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Elvis Presley

AP Photo

As anniversary years go, the 31st doesn't have the cachet of a 30th, even at Graceland, where the crowd gathering to commemorate Elvis Presley's death was expected to be perhaps less than half of last year's record turnout.

"But it's still an incredible event, having 30,000 people for a candlelight vigil," says Kevin Kern of Elvis Presley Enterprises.

The candlelight vigil, long the emotional highlight of the Memphis, Tenn., tradition known as Elvis Week, was set for Friday night.

This year's Elvis Week, which commenced last Saturday, has consisted of the usual: fan convention; meets-and-greets with former Elvis friends and costars; postvigil spaghetti dinner and more. Today will find fans gathering for a midday memorial service at the University of Memphis.

The one thing the Elvis faithful can't do during Elvis Week, no matter what the anniversary year, is visit Graceland's second floor, which features the bedroom where Presley slept and the bathroom where the rock king died on Aug. 16, 1977.

"It's a common question: 'Are you going to put the upstairs on tour?' And the answer is no," Kern says. "It was a private living quarters for the Presley family, and it remains that way today."

"People are respectful of that. When you go through Graceland, you don't feel like you're entering a museum. It's a feeling of a home."

A home left behind by its most-famed resident 31 years today.

Elsewhere, here are some recent notable passings:

  • As a reporter at Billboard, future Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Jerry Wexler, 91, helped come up with the phrase "rhythm and blues" to describe music that previously had been classified as "race records." As a legendary Grammy-winning producer, Wexler guided classic tracks by Aretha Franklin ("Respect"), Wilson Pickett ("In the Midnight Hour") and Percy Sledge ("When a Man Loves a Woman").
  • George Furth, 75, was a character actor with nearly 100 TV and film credits, and a writer with one Tony—for penning the book for the landmark 1970 Stephen Sondheim musical Company.