“Elvis Presley’s death deprives our country of a part of itself.”
~Former U.S. President James Earl Carter
“Elvis is the greatest cultural force in the twentieth century.”
~Leonard Bernstein, Conductor, New York Philharmonic
“If there hadn’t been an Elvis, there wouldn’t have been the Beatles.”
“Before Elvis, there was nothing.”
January 8, 2010 marks what would be the 75th birthday of Elvis Aaron Presley, The King of Rock & Roll. No matter what is, was, or can be said about Elvis, there is no disputing his contribution to American popular music and culture. He was both the end of an era, and the beginning of another, crooning as dreamily as Crosby and Sinatra while rocking as hard as Berry and The Beatles.
Put simply, Elvis Presley was a ‘class act’, with emphasis on the word “class.”
Although Elvis’s ‘pelvic gyrations’ may have been considered racy and unfit for television audiences (in an era when it was forbidden to say “pregnant” on network television), he was still a gentleman of style and grace. He was polite in interviews, respectful to his fellow artists, and an overall gracious individual. When his country called, he served. And, although he had V.I.P. offers from both the Navy and Air Force, he refused special treatment and took the U.S. Army route, serving in West Germany in 1958. Coincidentally, my father was also serving there, and has often told me of his meeting with Elvis while they were both stationed in Baumholder. My father recollects a down-to-earth Elvis, who was “just one of the guys.”
I was eight years old when Elvis died on August 16, 1977, and I didn’t know him. His legacy – for me – is primarily his music, but with the introduction of streaming internet video I have had the chance to hear him speak both officially and candidly in interviews and performances. The more I watch, the more I come to understand the persona of Elvis… or at least the one he presented publicly.
Am I saying that Elvis Presley is an Angel? No. He had his demons and transgressions like anyone else, maybe more. Let’s face it, it ain’t easy being The King. But, measured by the standards set by today’s ‘artists’, Elvis would at least have a shot at sainthood.
Elvis never attended an MTV Music Awards show, nor—to the best of my knowledge—an Emmy Awards show either. I don’t think the former could even exist without Elvis, and yet I’m not sure he would have taken kindly to the gimmicks and antics of today’s musical elite.
Elvis Presley belongs to a simpler time, when artists were musicians and performers, and there was something of an unspoken behavioral barometer. Many (not all) of today’s artists are mere shadows of The King, and the degenerate stunts they seem to pull each year at these award shows become worse and worse. As a public figure, Mr. Presley displayed a moral fiber that the likes of Kanye West can’t even begin to imagine or mimic. As I said earlier, Elvis was a gentleman, and I only wish that someday a new generation of performers might take their cue from him… he was The King for a reason.
Cutting Edge Entertainment
Elvis image used with permission, Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.