Great artists imitate - a genius steals..." Pablo Picasso.
Elvis "stole" from everything & everyone around him. He took from gospel music - the passion for expressing lyrics. He stole from Black music - the backbeat & the rhythms. From his Southern roots he extended a hospitality that made a direct connection with audiences. It was an austere formula that made Elvis unique on record, on stage & on the screen. Thus becoming the single most important performer of the 20th century.
From Tupelo to Memphis (childhood influences) Born on 8 January 1935, he was a sole surviving twin. His mother's devotion, his father's stay in jail and living in extreme poverty, later impacted greatly on Elvis' career choices. Believing that hard work equated to financially security he never quiet realized that his talent had a power of its own. This mind-set allowed Colonel Parker to take complete control over his destiny.
Memphis - Hume High School days (the boys club)
Moving to the big city. He discovered backyard blue. White versus Black gospel music. Being an only child he felt isolated with a strong need for mate-ship. When he met Red West at Humes High School he made an effort to cultivate 'buddy' relationships which later extended into the infamous Memphis Mafia.
In the Beginning (rebel with a cause)
His first recording session again reflected his inner feeling of aloneness. However, once on stage he performed to the beat of his own heart. The 50's television shows were a testament to how completely he believed in himself (A direct reflection of having a devoted mother.) Creating on-stage and off-stage riots, he turned rock-n-roll into a teenage phenomenon. On-stage he was a sinner - off-stage he was a saint. Censorship of his performances and music proved to Elvis that he was indeed a rebel - just like his screen hero, James Dean.
Being at the right place at the right time
Elvis entered the limelight just at the right time. With Sinatra lost to their parents generation, teenager of the 50's yearned for something they could call their own. Elvis realized that his generation needed a brand of music that would talk to their very hearts and souls. He set the trend not only in music but fashion thus creating a whole new teenage culture. With the death of James Dean, closely follow by Buddy Holly's death and Jerry Lee Lewis' fall from grace, Elvis was there to step up to the podium of stardom.
Marriage & Fatherhood
What did being married mean to Elvis? Not much! For so many years of living up to an image that had create for him, Elvis saw marriage as a necessity rather than a commitment. However, becoming a father made Elvis realize he was only human. He was a devoted father, and Lisa Marie became the most important person in the world. "She is life itself," proclaimed Elvis.
Marshal Arts & Parapsychology
Elvis' fascination with the occult, mysticism and religion was central to his values and view of life. He believed that he was chosen for a special mission. Southern superstitions like being a surviving twin helped propagate this notion. Through occult teaching, Elvis sought to find the answers. Sadly, it was drugs not prayer that offered Elvis some escapism from the pressures of super stardom.
Returning Live! With the Hollywood contract ended and the '69 TV Comeback Special, Elvis was reminded that he still had a huge loyal following who loved him. The new challenge of touring was very exciting - but only initially. The Vegas challenge complete and now being mainstream with the media the only challenged left was how to keep up with the Beatles. His stage repertoire changed to include old hit sprinkled with cover versions of Neil Diamond, Beatles, Bob Dylan and Paul Simon songs. The live gospel songs proved Elvis was versatile performer.
The Divorce. The Demise. The Last Days
By the time Elvis turned 40 he had achieved it all! With no more maintains to climb, no more challenges to conquer and having a scathing book written by his henchmen that revealed the truth about Elvis behind the image. It seems as if Elvis conceded to the fact that just maybe the end was near. Elvis: What Happened? got so much media hype that this final 'drug & bloated' image is still the one that persists to this day, and led to the bizarre Elvis sightings & death hoax culture. * To read the real story behind the Elvis death hoax! Watch this space!
How the Legend is perpetuated?
So how is the Elvis legacy being perpetuated by the media and Graceland? It was not until Vernon Presley's death in 1979; Priscilla Presley who inherited the Elvis legacy by default sought to cash in. Opening the Graceland mansion in 1981 was the biggest money making scheme of all time? Not 12 months later the Graceland Plaza was build, offering Elvis pilgrims and assortment of Elvis memorabilia from ashtrays to aftershave. Colonel Parker would be proud, but I wonder how Elvis would have reacted to this marketing ploy at the expense of his image. In 1998, Lisa Marie inherited an estimated $50 million. It was only a share, of EPE Inc's. total worth, and she only has the power of one vote. Time will tell, what will survive of Elvis' legacy once PP meets her maker.
Why the Legend Lives On?
Understanding why the Elvis legend lives on is to understand the baby-boom generation. The 50's, was a time of hope and optimism and most Elvis fans anchored to their idol through a particular song, a certain movie, or a memorable stage performance. Today, the accessibility of being able to rekindle a youthful moment by simply pushing a button certainly keeps the flame burning. I believe 100 years from now, Elvis Aaron Presley will still be honored for his contribution, as the single most profound rock-n-roll icon of the 20th century.