Elvis Presley, aka the King of Rock and Roll, began his life as, what some might call, “white trash”, living mostly in rooming houses and public housing. Life was not easy.
Elvis never learned how to read sheet music, playing strictly by ear. The only subject he ever failed was music.
There is hope in adversity. As his congregation would say: Amen.
Elvis was a bit of an odd ball. A loner. He didn’t fit in. But he was mesmerized by the music and the moves he saw in local black churches, and he eventually transformed them into his repertoire. Without African Americans, Elvis would not be Elvis. Until Elvis took the world by storm, white men had never been seen gyrating their hips, wiggling their butts or doing anything on stage beyond singing into a microphone with an occasional snap of their fingers. He was described as a “sexual avalanche”.
“It isn’t enough to say Elvis is kind to his parents, sends money home, and is the same unspoiled kid he was before all the commotion began. That still isn’t a free ticket to behave like a sex maniac in public.” (Cosmopolitan, 1956)
“His kind of music is deplorable, a rancid smelling aphrodisiac … It fosters almost totally negative and destructive reactions in young people.” (Frank Sinatra)
“Without preamble, the 3-piece band cuts loose. In the spotlight, the lanky singer flails furious rhythms on his guitar, every now and then breaking a string. In a pivoting stand, his hips swing sensuously from side to side and his entire body takes on a frantic quiver, as if he had swallowed a jackhammer.” (Time)
Do we need another movie about Elvis? Well, biopics are the rage, so why not? And Tom Hanks has been cast at Presley’s manager, which gives the film great promise.
I am a big Tom Hanks fan. Although New York fans said they were sorry, it is a shame that fans were so intrusive recently that his wife, Rita Wilson, was recently knocked over by the crowd and almost fell. Mr. Hanks was visibly upset and rightly so. It can’t be easy being a star or being married to a star. Note to fans: let these people live their lives, give them peace, give them space.
Film director Baz Luhrmann said he’s using the story of Presley “to paint a canvas of American life during the Elvis era of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s”. I applaud such an initiative. We need to remember our past.
The 50’s was a decade marked by the post-WWII boom, the dawn of the Cold War (coined by George Orwell, it was a period of superpower hostilities: the Soviet Union vs. the United States) and the civil rights movement.
The civil rights movement heightened in the 60’s, a decade that was also marked by the Vietnam War and anti-war protests, political assassinations (John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., Robert Kennedy) and the emerging “generation gap”.
The 70’s will be remembered as an era when women’s rights, gay rights and environmental movements competed with the Richard Nixon Watergate scandal, the energy crisis and the continuing Vietnam War (which finally ended in 1975).
Here are some interesting facts about Elvis Presley, the man who changed the world and left it far too early:
- He had a stillborn twin brother
- His father spent time in jail after forging a $4 check
- He was the first member of his family to earn a high school diploma
- Elvis bought Graceland when he was only 22. Graceland is named after the original owner’s daughter, Grace
- Elvis' manager's real name was Andreas Cornelis van Kuijk, not Colonel Tom Parker
- While already a star, Elvis was drafted into the U.S. military. He served as a jeep driver in Friedberg, West Germany. His future wife, Priscilla, was the daughter of a U.S. Air Force captain. He achieved the rank of sergeant during his service
- Elvis had a 7th degree black belt in karate. This martial art can be seen in some of his dance and stage moves
- Elvis never performed on foreign soil, with the exception of a few concerts in Canada. Some say this was because Colonel Parker feared that his illegal immigrant status would be discovered and he would not be allowed to re-enter the United States
- Elvis commanded as much as $1 million per performance during a time when $1 million was a huge amount of money. Twenty-one of his albums reached #1, as did 35 singles
- George W. Bush became the first U.S. President to visit Graceland with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, a die-hard Elvis fan
- Elvis died at age 42 of a heart attack, the result of massive opioid abuse
Yes, Elvis has left the building … but as you can see today, he has not left the building. The transformation of American society continues, and we have much to thank him for, as he showed us the way.
“Before Elvis, there was nothing.” (John Lennon)
“Elvis is the greatest cultural force in the 20th century. (But what about Picasso?) No, it’s Elvis. He introduced the beat to everything and he changed everything – music, languages, clothes. It’s a whole new social revolution – the 60’s come from it.”(Leonard Bernstein, legendary composer and conductor, NY Philharmonic Orchestra)
Now take what you’ve learned and play today’s Elvis Quiz of the Day:
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