Elvis Aaron Presley had an enormous effect on popular music, and indeed on the world. But why do we remember him more than other icons of the time? Every year the number of people commemmorating him at Graceland grows, apparently he has more fan club members now than when he was alive. What makes him more iconic than Jim Morrison or Jimi Hendrix? Why has devotion to Elvis lasted longer than the devotion to James Dean or Marilyn Monroe? (While both Dean & Monroe are still 60’s icons – they don’t come anywhere near Elvis in the popularity stakes.)
Probably because he was so damn sexy. And he was. See him in the ’68 TV special in the black leather suit – ok I agree a black leather suit is a bit naff, but it was the 60’s. But seriously – are you telling me he’s not sexy?
“There is something magical about watching a man who has lost himself find his way back home…He sang with the kind of power people no longer expect from rock ‘n’ roll singers.”
Review of Elvis, (1968 TV Special).
“It was the finest music of his life. If ever there was music that bleeds, this was it.”
From his book, Mystery Train, remembering the 1968 TV Special.
I think one of the reasons for Elvis’ immense staying power is the emotion and passion he sang with. The guy sang like his life depended on it – like this song, this moment, was the only thing in the world – and that connected him to people and they to him. Of course, being tall dark and hansome didn’t hurt, and yes a majority of his fans were female. But he was one of those lucky ones who attracted everyone. Men wanted to hang out with him and women want to be with him. He appealed to everyone with his down-home sensibilities, civility and generosity. Read quotes of people who met Elvis and they always call him a really nice guy.
His movies weren’t fantasic-stand-out-be-remembered-for-all-time classics like Gone with the Wind or Citizen Kane, but they were the most popular rom-com’s of their day and were as successful in their own right. And they’re still enjoyable when on tv today… my favourites? Viva Las Vegas and Speedway :)
His music, though, appealed to almost everyone. He had his ballads, his rock numbers, jazz, gospel – he could do it all, and he did it all amazingly well.
What caused most of the original stir was his gyrations. Hip-swinging hadn’t been seen on TV before, and all of a sudden rock n’ roll was devil’s music that would corrupt our kids. How times have changed, huh? :)
“Man, I was tame compared to what they do now. Are you kidding? I didn’t do anything but just jiggle.”
-From the press conference prior to his record-breaking Madison Square Garden shows in New York City, 1972.
My stepdad’s an enormous Elvis fan – they’ve even got the same birthday! And photos of John with a combover and big lamb-chop sideburns still make me laugh.. :) Sorry John! Anyway, John’s got a huge Elvis record collection – most of them purchased with his hard earned in their first week of release – and he’s looked after them.. they’re all in their own individual dustcovers etc. I used to love just looking at them – maybe that had a hand in my music obsession?
But I can understand why he’s more popular now than he was then – his songs are classics that live up there with The Beatles and Frank Sinatra. Songs that are known and loved the world over. Indeed Always on my Mind brings a tear to my eye every time I hear it.
On 16 August 1977 Elvis Presley was found dead in his bathroom from a drug-fuelled heart attack, age 42 – it is not the way he should have gone. On the other hand, like Steve Irwin, you just knew he wasn’t going to live to old age. And the fact that (reportedly) his favourite sandwich was peanut butter and banana, fried – well, you know where that was heading.
The star shone short but brilliant – but the light hasn’t faded. Happy death-day Elvis. We do miss you.