Elvis Presley 16 August 1977
Elvis Presley died at his home in Memphis 40 years ago today. The president of the United States, Jimmy Carter, paid tribute with a statement in which he said that the singer had “permanently changed the face of American popular culture.” Here’s Elvis with an acoustic guitar and a song in a hotel room in Germany in 1958, aged 23:
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“Elvis was a hero to most, but he doesn’t mean sh** to me”, I believe Chuck D rapped on ” Fight The Power”.
I was born in 1955, and, even then it was hard to grasp what he meant to people born perhaps 15 years before me. Sure, he made some great songs, but that connection is just not there for me. His turgid films formed a backdrop to my childhood, however.
I too was born in 1955 and never had time for him(nor for another age-defining icon , Marilyn Monroe). I was in London when he died and I regret not having bought a newspaper sporting the ballardian headline ” Elvis Dead” , though.
Agreed . Add to that the simple fact that Elvis did not create nor change one single aspect of popular culture in the US . Claiming that he did is the epitome of urban myth and revisionist history ignoring those before him . All he did was to bring that which had been around for more than a decade previous and ‘ popularize ‘ it into mainstream culture . And that … was due solely to the strong arm and manipulative tactics of Colonel Parker … not Elvis .
Born in 1952, I clearly recall August 16, 1977. I popped into a friend working in a record shop and remember commenting that Elvis was “like a part of the furniture”. Meant in a complimentary way, I might add.
… which says much about the ignorance of a minority segment popular culture in the mid 70’s considering the fact that by 77 Elvis was a bloated , substance addled caricature of his former self all but irrelevant to anyone under the age of 50 wallowing about like a beached whale in heat pretending he was anything but the manufactured puppet sham he’d become under the Machiavellian hand of Colonel Parker
So perhaps rather than celebrating Elvis .. we should be bemoaning the fact that he was one of the earliest pop culture tragedies of R&R
Well, I suppose I’m happy to host The Blue Moment as a forum for debate. But I’m a little surprised that my small note to mark Presley’s passing should generate such dismissive replies. I think you’re all wrong, by the way. Principles are important, but sometimes it’s worth just listening to the music on its own terms (I recognise that you still might not like it). Presley achieved something remarkable, not entirely by accident. Parker was just the marketing and promotion man, doing his very best to screw it all up.
The Sun recordings are of course untouchable , but by the late Sixties/early Seventies there were more… exciting things around for a teenager , just that . Moot questions spring to mind , though : those sides evidently didn’t happen by accident but whose genius the fruit were they ? Elvis’s or Sam Phillips’s? How come neither Johnny Cash nor Jerry Lee lewis met a Colonel Parker to show (euphemism intended) them the way to superstardom? Wasn’t Elvis a “product” since the very beginning , so that the ” Fat Elvis ” epilogue was written on the walls of that studio in Memphis ?(Whence the legitimate reassessment of the Las Vegas years). As someone said : It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll , but there’s something archetypal in his fate .
Stunned by such aggresive negative responses. He lost his way and had a sad end but some of his songs are unmatchable. Listen to something like “Reconsider Baby” and mourn the way he should have taken but for the greedy Dutchman masquerading as Colonel Parker
Shame he couldn’t get the tune right. What happened to that flattened sixth?
Not sure flattened sixths were permitted in the 32nd Armored Regiment, Peter. Although he was off duty at the time.
On 16th August 1977 I received a prophetic letter from a friend, posted days earlier. He had written on the back of the envelope – “Hurry up postie don’t be slow, go like Elvis, go man go!”
I was brought up without popular culture – no tv in the house, Radio 4 only. At the age of ten, in 1977, i went to stay with a relative who had tv. Elvis died, so was constantly on the tv. I was absolutely blown away by seeing Elvis then. No preconceptions, had only really heard of him a little bit. Just, pure wow.
Nowadays, i am a singer. I still do just utterly love Elvis’s delivery of so many songs. So what if his role has been overplayed, he has been overhyped… he made a lot of dross – it just doesn’t matter if you are not trying to define him as one thing over another.
My own kids look up when he is played – there is still something startling about him in the playlist world. They hate the crooner, but they love the earliest rock & roll. They also love Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Louis Jordan… there is room for it all. But Elvis wasn’t just some nobody who got lucky – credit where it’s due.