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Elvis Presley's legacy: 'I just don't get it'!


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I'm sure I'm about to be called a lunatic but really and truly, I've failed to grasp the amount of furore around Elvis. :freak:

I watched a programme where it showed literally millions of people flocking to Memphis to see his grave. :confused:

 

I happened to tape the bio of James Brown, and I also taped the Michael Jackson 30 yrs tribute concert at Madison Square gardens where he was superb. :cool:

(By the way, I had no idea Jermaine Jackson could play some mean funk basslines!! 4 string Ibanez EDC600 I think).

 

These two, JB and MJ, can comfortably write/perform rock, soul, FUNK, R&B etc, and dance superbly all at once, with out dropping a beat or going of key!! :thu: (Let's not forget Prince).

To crown it all, they're trend setters. I fully understand their legacy.

Can someone educate me on Elvis's legacy?

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When a young (and terribly handsome) Elvis appeared on the Tonight Show (or was it Ed Sullivan), the cameras only showed him from the chest up, as his vigorous dancing was deemed utterly inappropriate for the gentle viewer.

 

Of course, it was exactly that sort of showmanship that made Elvis the phenomenon he was. He was the ultimate teen heartthrob, crooning and rocking his way into the hearts of America's youth. Boys wanted to be him, girls wanted to be with him.

 

And to top it off, he could actually hold his own on the guitar in some quality upbeat country and bluegrass pickfests.

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You're looking at Elvis in light of the media onslaught of the past 50 years.

Try to imagine what it was like when he first appeared...no MTV, B&W TV, local radio, separate bins for "race" records, black & white kids couldn't go to the same schools, partitions kept them apart on dance floors, many radio stations wouldn't promote original R&B records (Pat Boone doing "Tutti Frutti" :eek: ), singers were deliberately kept unemotional...it was in short, a whole 'nother world.

 

For a lot of young kids Elvis was something entirely new as far as cutting loose & shaking it!

 

Now that they're oldsters, they look back fondly (hence the gravesite vigils, etc.).

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Part of it is delivery.

 

Elvis did not invent rock and roll.

 

But he delivered. He brought it to the most important consumer of his time; white, middle-class teenagers in America.

 

Elvis had a good voice, great production, and unbelievable marketing and appeal.

 

Elvis made the Beatles and the Rolling Stones possible.

 

And the reason people tend to go completely nuts over Elvis; nostalgia. Think about the first record you ever purchased? The REAL record.

 

Mine was a vinyl copy of Madness's debut album (in the US). I still have it. I still love it. It was my introduction to "adult" music when I was VERY young. :)

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It's always hard to see the past from the viewpoint of the present.

 

Look back to the 50's. Rock and roll barely existed.

 

Elvis Presley was handsome and sexy and a good performer and singer. Don't listen to him with contemporary ears, compare him to the other singers at the time.

 

He successfully fused country music and rhythm and blues and came up with something new. He also was the prototype for the "teenager with attitude".

 

His early records are great, true pioneering rock and roll.

 

Later in his career, he became more of an entertainer and thrilled huge crowds in Las Vegas.

 

He also made dozens of teenage-oriented movies. I went to and enjoyed all of them.

 

If you view him from an Afro-centric perspective, i.e., a white artist "ripping off" black entertainers, you are missing something. His style, while having heavy roots in black music, was something new and had equal roots in country music (which was called hillbilly music at the time).

 

There were no other stars anywhere near equal to Elvis during his heyday.

 

The same was true for the Beatles during their reign.

 

Nowadays, we have many categories of music. Many people only listen to their favorite types.

 

In those days, their was top 40 radio. Everything was played and everyone listened to it. The big stars of the old days were big stars for everyone, not just a select demographic.

 

The only radio alternatives were what was called "race radio", an unfortunate term for stations featuring Black artists and hillbilly stations. And of course easy listening stations which basically played musical wallpaper.

 

In my northeastern US hometown, top 40 was the only thing to listen to. Period. And Elvis ruled the 50's. I was in high school in the 60's. By then it seemed like rock music was dying out. The next thing that happened was the English invasion and it woke up again.

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Originally posted by jeremyc:

If you view him from an Afro-centric perspective, i.e., a white artist "ripping off" black entertainers, you are missing something. His style, while having heavy roots in black music, was something new and had equal roots in country music (which was called hillbilly music at the time).

I never, ever, ever got Elvis. And I'm old enough to remember music before there was Beatles. Not even as far as ripping off black music is concerned, I've never known any black people, and I mean zero from my experience, who ever liked Elvis. I never knew any black people who had Elvis records or went to Elvis concerts. It was just not done nor was it considered cool. Elvis was considered zippo in the black community. And after all these years I still don't get Elvis. I've had people talk to me and play me records, one after another of Elvis, even the Sun Session didn't do it for me. Welll there was some cool stuff there, but . . . I'm with you TShakazBlackRoots. I don't get it either.

All the best,

 

Henry Robinett

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I am not now, nor have I ever been, an Elvis Presley fan. I was in Memphis a while ago. I went out for ribs & visited Stax. It didn't even occur to me to visit Graceland.

 

That said, I emphatically second everything that people have said above, about why Elvis was--and is--important. It's all true.

 

It's important to be able to separate personal tastes from a serious appreciation of things.

 

It's also important not to reduce someone's creative act down to the simple motions one goes through in doing it ("a few pelvic thrusts"). That guarantees you'll miss what actually happened.

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I wouldn't consider myself an Elvis fan, either. Maybe I'm too young, I dunno.

 

I think I have one insight to add. It comes up in the discussion of Nirvana, and that's the idea of being the first BIG act...the popularizer, if you will.

 

Did Elvis invent rock 'n' roll? No.

Did Metallica invent heavy metal? No.

Did Nirvana invent grunge? No.

 

What they all did was add their own twist to the musical genre of their choice, and make it popular to a large group of people. For each of them you can argue about how significant their twist was. For example, how directly did Elvis rip off from black artists? Was he really all that musically talented or was it all just a bunch of hip-shaking? But even if they were doing the exact same thing as a dozen bands before them, they were the ones that broke through and brought this music to the general public, and I think we should all be hard-pressed to criticize that.

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I've never known any black people, and I mean zero from my experience, who ever liked Elvis. I never knew any black people who had Elvis records or went to Elvis concerts. It was just not done nor was it considered cool. Elvis was considered zippo in the black community.
I'm going to throw out something provocative here, please don't consider me a racist for the following observation and overgeneralization:

 

White audiences love white groups and they love black groups. Black audiences love black groups and don't understand what the fuss about the white groups is about.

 

I would love to hear comments telling me that it isn't true.

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was Sammy Davis an Elvis fan??? :confused:

 

no, I have never been an Elvis fan -

I also do not see the attraction to about 99.9% of the rap "artists" out there- jeez, theyre not even singing! they are TALKING!!!! but peope go absolutely crazy for them-

 

someone tell me this.. how the HELL did Jay Z score with Beyonce?

that's a FUGLY brother!!

however, after studying Jeremy's tab of the Nelly tune, i am a convert!! :D

Praise ye the LORD.

....praise him with stringed instruments and organs...

Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD.

excerpt from- Psalm 150

visit me at:

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for His glory

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I don't know. I knew a lot of black folk, me included, that liked the Beatles. I knew a lot of black folk that liked Led Zeppelin. Me and a few buddies were really into YES, believe it or not. I knew a couple guys who even Dead heads. Hippies. But I've never met a black Elvis fan.

 

It just strikes me as interesting that someone can be considered "The King" who speaks to only one racial camp. It's kind of a typical Baby Boomer phenomenon. Boomers tend to think their world is the right world. THE IMPORTANT world. And it gets narrowed down even further to those who have the money and the attention of the media.

All the best,

 

Henry Robinett

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I also don't quite get Elvis.

 

To qualify that - I DO think I get him as a seminal artist, and I do get him as a cultural phenomenon (insofar as I can get that sort of thing at all - I find the whole mega-celebrity thing difficult to get my head round in a way, but I can see that Elvis had exactly the kind of qualities that could make him the global superstar/marketing phenomenon he was).

 

Also its not that I don't like his records - Suspicious Minds, Heartbreak Hotel and many others are stone classics. He had a great voice and was obviously a natural musician.

 

All the same, he has an ongoing critical reputation as an artist that seems to me seriously out of proportion to the body of work.

The most extreme example is probably the fetishisation of the '68 Comeback Special, a decent, energetic performance that looks back to his 50s roots but hardly the Chartres Cathedral of live rock'n'roll that its reputation suggests. Of the even more fetishised Sun Sessions only the eerie Mystery Train holds up as a truly great performance in my opinion.

 

All the Elvis I'd ever want would fit on a single 74 minute cd, comfortably. Some of it is great, but there's not enough of it, and it's not great enough, to warrant him being taken seriously as a musical artist in the same way as The Beatles or The Rolling Stones, or Sinatra come to that.

 

(Incidentally black people did not seem to have a problem getting Sinatra.)

 

Since Jeremy is advancing controversial theories I'll advance one of my own. In the US in the fifties some geeky kids were growing up who were going to be the pioneering rock critics of the 60s and 70s and the commissioning editors of the 80s, 90s and 00s. They were going to be hugely influential in determining which rock'n'roll artists were going to be elevated to the Canon. And as kids some of them had an intense, in some cases obviously homoerotic obsession with Elvis. They were never able to see him straight or hear him objectively.

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White audiences love white groups and they love black groups. Black audiences love black groups and don't understand what the fuss about the white groups is about
Jeremy, I agree with you to a point. White audiences are more receptive to various froms of music but on the other hand, they can afford to, unlike most 'ethnic' communities where most can only afford to buy a record or two, attend fewer concerts.

 

However, if you go to Africa, Phil Collins, Celine Dion, Michael Bolton, Kenny G and the like are huge. The biggest stars are country artists like Don Williams and Kenny Rogers :eek: !!

 

But speaking from an artists' point of view, James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Prince, Michael Jackson, Miles Davis, Isaac Hayes, Dr Dre and all the trend setters of popular music should have an ARTISTIC legacy, NOT because they are black, but it's a musical fact. :cool:

There are hundreds of 'white' artists who deserve this accolade too, no doubt.

I still don't get Elvis, the phenomenon. :confused:

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Not that I am totally qualified, but I think I am more qualified than some....

 

I play in an Oldies band that does a lot of Elvis Tribute. We back up Elvis Tribute Artists that usually sing to Karaoke tracks. Most of these guys are not great, but they all think they are better than all the others.

 

As an oldies band, it's a struggle to get good paying gigs. As an Elvis Tribute Band, it's easy. The ETA's sing for free, we play Hound Dog 7 times a night b'cause they all want to sing it. And some of them prefer singing to karaoke tracks, so we get extended breaks.

 

The ETA's pack the joint with friends and family.

 

What it boils down to is fun. The ETA shows are fun. The audience responds and everybody has a good time. And it doesn't matter how bad the ETA's are.

 

On the other hand, you can't do bad Beatles and get away with it. Audiences are very tolerant of bad Elvis.

 

I can't speak to the nostalgia factor, (although I do remember where I was when I heard Elvis died), but for today, right now, Elvis is all about Fun.

 

Paul

Peace,

 

Paul

 

----------------------

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Way back before Elvis...

 

The real KINGS were busy inventing Rock and Roll, and building it squarely on the foundation of the blues. Millions of white college kids were starting to listen to black music radio stations in alarming numbers, having had enough of the Pat Boone style sterile crooners of the day. The white money behind the radio stations and the music biz of the era didn't much like what they saw, at all.

 

Enter guys like Sam Phillips, who had done quite well for himself off the backs of black blues artists, whom he seldom paid well, or paid at all.

 

Enter Elvis...

 

A handsome white kid with a great voice and amazing stage presence and tons of raw male sexuality. The perfect object to package, market, and maniplulate. And the perfect vehicle for stealing the rewards of, and credit for the invention of, rock and roll from it's true creators.

 

Long live Little Richard, Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, Howlin' Wolf, and Chuck Berry.

 

Hang the damn King, and Sam with him!

 

:mad:

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Well, I'm tempted to explain the Elvis Effect in sexual terms....girls wanting him, so guys wanted to emulate him.

 

Writ large, when something like Elvis comes along and sells the world, and I don't get it, I generally assume there is something the world needs that I don't.

 

I didn't get ABBA. I didn't get rap. I never watched a single episode of Seinfeld, Fraser, Taxi, Friends.

 

(I do have to say that the new tune out by a guy named Usher is pretty cool...a mix of rapid fire melodic rap and soulful singing. Of course, I've seen the video while scanning past several different stations.)

 

I wouldn't say I was exactly a fan of Elvis, I only owned "GI Blues," I liked some of his radio hits ("In the Ghetto" meant something to me as a jr. high student.)

 

I do think he had an incredible voice; a bit influenced (as the argument goes) by black singers. In my experience (as the son of a Baptist preacher,) I think he was MUCH more influenced by the singing style of southern church music.

 

And, he had "it;" the undefinable charisma that draws people and lets them forgive his inadequacies.

 

Wish I had "it."

Yep. I'm the other voice in the head of davebrownbass.
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rockincyanblues said:

On the other hand, you can't do bad Beatles and get away with it. Audiences are very tolerant of bad Elvis.

That's no lie. Seem like the lamer they are the more the audiences eat 'em up. When I lived in Vegas, I played for a few Elvi (plural for Elvis). It was so sad...they actually had groupies.
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I don't like calling Elvis the "King of Rock n' Roll." To me, that title will always belong to Chuck Berry.

 

But I like Elvis. Like Jeremy said, his influence needs to be seen in the context of the period. I still love playing Elvis tunes, and I love Scotty Moore's guitar playing. Every time I've played in a band that kicks off into an Elvis tune, everyone gets into it. I think that says something.

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Every time I hear an Elvis song I feel surprisingly nauseous. Nice to know there are others whom feel the same way.

 

To me he's the UN-James Brown, and he and his legacy represents everything that truly stinks about the music biz, and how it has evolved over the past fifty years.

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Piling on

I think possibly Elvis, represents the raw deal alot black artists got in that era. Which might explain why not alot of blacks don't like him.

I personally like alot of the Sun Records stuff, Elvis, Johnny Cash, and Carl Perkins.

Elvis was talented regardless of what you can say,

but the reason he became a cultural Icon? Ask yourself why was James Dean the poster boy for fast paced "beat" style of living. When he was anything but a Beatnik.

I do know one black person who likes Elvis. She was my dentist, her favorite was Elton John, but she dug Elvis.

Together all sing their different songs in union - the Uni-verse.

My Current Project

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Originally posted by bc:

In the US in the fifties some geeky kids were growing up who were going to be the pioneering rock critics of the 60s and 70s and the commissioning editors of the 80s, 90s and 00s. They were going to be hugely influential in determining which rock'n'roll artists were going to be elevated to the Canon. And as kids some of them had an intense, in some cases obviously homoerotic obsession with Elvis. They were never able to see him straight or hear him objectively.

See also: Ramones, The.
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Originally posted by dcr:

Originally posted by bc:

In the US in the fifties some geeky kids were growing up who were going to be the pioneering rock critics of the 60s and 70s and the commissioning editors of the 80s, 90s and 00s. They were going to be hugely influential in determining which rock'n'roll artists were going to be elevated to the Canon. And as kids some of them had an intense, in some cases obviously homoerotic obsession with Elvis. They were never able to see him straight or hear him objectively.

See also: Ramones, The.
Hear, hear!

 

you may say to yourself: my god, what have i done?

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I didn't get across what I was trying to say.

 

take 2

 

Elvis' legacy has alot more to it than just music. Elvis represents the golden era of the US.

Elvis, Hot pants, hamburgers, roller girls, 57 Chevys.

Unfortunately Blacks were left out.

 

For alot of people Elvis was their first taste of black music. Ignorance is Bliss. Which lead to a national interest in Race music. Then people started wising up, and the 60's happened.

Together all sing their different songs in union - the Uni-verse.

My Current Project

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Originally posted by jeremyc:

I'm going to throw out something provocative here, please don't consider me a racist for the following observation and overgeneralization:

 

White audiences love white groups and they love black groups. Black audiences love black groups and don't understand what the fuss about the white groups is about.

 

I would love to hear comments telling me that it isn't true.

jeremyc - I'd never mistake you for a troll nor a racist. I really beleive your question was earnest. As a sweeping generalization your statement could be taken as truth.

 

The majority of black audiences are/were not into white groups. If you break it down by age group that might not be the case. My grandmother could appreciate Frank Sinatra. But, would she have gone to a concert? I doubt it. I have aunts and uncles who loved the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Would they have gone to a concert? Yes they have. As a kid I liked heavy metal and prog rock along with my funk and R'n B. Led Zepplin, The Who, ELP and Funkadelic were some of my favorite bands. Seen all of them. Did my bit trying to rock out in a band. Before Living Colour and Fishbone it was hard. Can anyone say The Busboys? There's always been black people as members of rock bands. Seldom if ever did you see an entire band of blacks, hispanics, asians or whatever in a rock band.

 

I think as time went on and society became a little more open I think more folks who were interested in whatever music they were interested in showed up at the venues in support of the artists that they liked. Did they turn out in droves? For some artists they did. For others they did not.

 

As for the Elvis thing. I never met a black person who was an Elvis fan. I watched his movies on TV as a kid and always felt he was kinda cool. I can appreciate his musical legacy and his roots. I don't even know if I buy into the rumor/hype that he was a racist. Ray Charles has said that he was always kind to him. Other black artists of that time have said the same thing.

RobT

 

Famous Musical Quotes: "I would rather play Chiquita Banana and have my swimming pool than play Bach and starve" - Xavier Cugat

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Originally posted by RobT:

As a kid I liked heavy metal and prog rock along with my funk and R'n B. Led Zepplin, The Who, ELP and Funkadelic were some of my favorite bands. Seen all of them. Did my bit trying to rock out in a band. Before Living Colour and Fishbone it was hard. Can anyone say The Busboys? There's always been black people as members of rock bands. Seldom if ever did you see an entire band of blacks, hispanics, asians or whatever in a rock band.

I did too. I'm a lot older than you, but in my day I really dug Cream, Jeff Beck Group, early Steve Miller, ealy Zep - but mainly it was Hendrix, of course.

 

But I was also a guitar player, and suffered I think from the stereotype image of guitar players or rather rock musicians who are suppose to fit type. Black musicians CAN be in rock bands but normallly in "traditionally" acceptable roles for black musicians in that context: the bass player, drummer or sax player. Billy Preston on organ. Sometimes a background singer. Heaven forbid the lead guitarist be black. He'd better be Jimi Hendrix. I'm talking years ago, but it kind of still holds true. I faced this head on a few times. Mainly I couldn't get passed the "deal" stage with the bands I was playing with. Twice the bands were signed after they changed the "guitar player". And believe me it wasn't because I didn't cut the parts. One band was signed to a development deal with Columbia. The other to straight to Island Records. Oh well.

All the best,

 

Henry Robinett

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