Elvis - The King

Elvis Presley

A lot of controversial opinions have been expressed about Elvis Presley. Some people judged him harshly; others put him on a pedestal.  One way or the other, Elvis Presley’s great influence can never be ignored. Elvis captivated millions by his talent, charisma, good looks, sensuality, and good humor, as well as the humility and kindness. Elvis is a revolution in music, language, clothes. He is a cultural icon of 20th-century popular culture. As Mick Jagger puts it, He was a unique artist… an original in an area of imitators.”

I have realized that it feels like I’ve known Elvis personally. From his songs, movies, he emanates such casual and familiar attitude and spirit, that I bet a lot of people get the same feeling of personally knowing him. This may sound banal, but I really somehow know he was an extremely kind person. How could an unkind person sing such wonderful songs so amazingly?! That seems impossible. Elvis was often heard quoting “Don’t criticize what you don’t understand, son. You never walked in that man’s shoes.” These are great words. Sometimes when a person is very talented in one particular area, we find it surprising to find good and moral human traits in them as well. As if we assume that either a person is good and rational, or he is talented in art or music. But Elvis contradicts this perception, with his great ability to understand diverse opinions, not to judge people too harshly, which, to my mind, is a very rare quality to find.

Elvis is also such an interesting person, definitely a genius, gifted with such multifaceted talent and diverse character. When you listen to his “Love Me Tender” or “It’s Now or Never”, he represents a devoted, romantic, perfect lover, a knight, a prince, the dream man. Whereas in “Kiss Me Quick” or “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You”  he is fiery, passionate, energetic man with tremendous sex appeal.

The fact that Elvis’ music is a such a perfect blend of different styles, with a high dose of African music, speaks of his unimaginable talent. But what’s even more important, his music is not just a blend of different genres. His essential contribution is that with mixing different styles he managed to create a completely new, novel and unheard-of music. Jackie Wilson, argued, "A lot of people have accused Elvis of stealing the black man's music, when in fact, almost every black solo entertainer copied his stage mannerisms from Elvis." Presley plainly acknowledged his debt, saying: "Rock 'n' roll music is basically gospel or rhythm and blues, or it sprang from that. People have been adding to it, adding instruments to it, experimenting with it, but it all boils down to [that]." Nine years earlier, he had said, "Rock 'n' roll has been around for many years. It used to be called rhythm and blues." His words prove that he was a modest person, acknowledging the diverse influences his music had undergone, but ignoring his own unfathomable virtue, his versatile voice, his audacious performance style, all that brought him great acclaim, introducing a new era in American popular music.

“Rhythm is something you either have or don't have, but when you have it, you have it all over.” – Elvis said. And this is his own description, whether he meant it or not. He definitely had it “all over”.

Elvis admitted that he was never totally comfortable on the stage, which again means he was a humble person.  “The first time that I appeared on stage, it scared me to death. I really didn’t know what all the yelling was about. I didn’t realize that my body was moving. It’s a natural thing to me. So to the manager backstage I said, ‘What’d I do? What’d I do?’ And he said “Whatever it is, go back and do it again.” Indeed, when you listen and watch him perform, you can understand why the people were so excited about his performance, and why the people’s reaction sort of embarrassed him, because he didn’t understand what special about his behavior, which was a natural state for him. His natural performance and genuine vigor emanates so much life that you tend to forget he’s not alive. His energized moves, so much love in his voice, so much affection, tenderness and passion in his music, are some of the reasons I love Elvis. And why I totally agree with Bruce Springsteen that, “There have been a lot of tough guys. There have been pretenders. And there have been contenders. But there is only one king.”



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