What Song Played at Elvis Presley’s Funeral?

Elvis Presley died on Aug. 16, 1977. According to doctors at the time, a heart attack was the cause. His death was felt around the world and his funeral at Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee was a spectacle to behold.

A close-up of Elvis Presley. He's in a white shirt in front of a light blue background.
Elvis Presley | Bettmann, Getty Images

The fan reaction to Elvis Presley’s death

In the days following Presley’s death, thousands of fans gathered in Memphis to mourn and celebrate the life of The King. So many people gathered that President Carter ordered 300 National Guard troops to keep things orderly, according to Live About. Flags around the city were lowered to half-staff.

Presley was embalmed at the Memphis Funeral Home. On Aug. 17, the day after his death, his body was returned to Graceland and presented to the public in a grand viewing of the casket, per Presley’s father’s request. Over 3,000 fans were welcomed into Graceland to gaze upon The King for the last time.

The funeral and Elvis Presley’s favorite hymn

Presley’s funeral took place on Aug. 18 from 2:00 to 4:00 pm in the Graceland living room. Wooddale Church of Christ pastor C.S. Bradley led the sermon. Such stars as James Brown, George Hamilton, and his “Viva Las Vegas” co-star Ann-Margret were in attendance. Comedian Jackie Kahane, who regularly opened for Presley’s shows, also spoke.

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Music was, of course, an integral part of Presley’s service. Performers who had worked with The King through the years, the Statesmen, Kathy Westmoreland, J.D. Sumner and the Stamps, sang and played some of Presley’s favorite hymns. Particularly featured was “Heavenly Father.”

Later, The King’s body was transferred to the Forest Hill Cemetery. He was laid to rest next to his mother, Gladys Love. About 80,000 people came to watch. The streets were filled with Presley’s adoring fans, many of whom were carrying signs expressing their love for The King.

The aftermath

Following Presley’s death, his last record, “Way Down,” topped the charts in both America and the United Kingdom for weeks.

Way down where the music plays
Way down like a tidal wave
Way down where the fires blaze
Way down, down

“Way Down,” Elvis Presley

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Later in the month, someone tried to steal Presley’s body, after which, both Presley and his mother were transferred to the Meditation Garden at Graceland on Oct. 2, 1977. They are still located there today.