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Why I stopped hating Elvis Presley

 
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Alias_Avi View Drop Down
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    Posted: Aug 20 2012 at 10:50am
Does he sound like a coon to you? Confused

Originally posted by Creative Loafing ATL Creative Loafing ATL wrote:

Why I stopped hating Elvis Presley

Posted by Todd "Stereo" Williams on Mon, Aug 20, 2012 at 9:08 AM

August 16 marked 35 years since Elvis Presleys death
  • August 16 marked 35 years since Elvis Presley's death
Elvis Presley is probably the most polarizing figure in 20th century popular music. To a significant number of people he's “The King,” a hip-swiveling icon from rock ’n’ roll's early years who represented a generation of young people ready to throw off the sexual and racial shackles of the previous era. To others, he's a hollow culture-thief, an overrated musical charlatan who profited off of music some feel he had no business recording in the first place.

A quick run of the man's history and you can see validity in both arguments. But if you dig a little deeper, you begin to realize that both of these “Elvises” are largely fabrications — variations on a musical superstar — created to help both sides come to terms with the duality of his legacy.

Growing up, I was conditioned to loathe Elvis Presley. The lightest criticism I heard of Elvis was that he “stole Black people's music.” The harshest criticism I heard was that he was a blatant racist who felt that all a Black man could do for him was “shine my shoes or buy my record.” I heard this from several family members and casual acquaintances — a sentiment that was forever immortalized in Public Enemy's classic single “Fight the Power.” Elvis was no hero. And he certainly never meant sh*t to me.

I viewed white folks' obsession with him as evidence of their inherently racist preference for black music without a black face. Even as I became a fan of 1960s British Invasion bands, part of my praise of the Beatles, Stones, and Who was that they openly acknowledged the Black influence in their music — “unlike Elvis Presley.”

But it wasn't until years later that I really had to learn about Elvis beyond what I'd been told. I was working on a piece about his supposed racism and racist legacy and started doing research for proof.

You can't imagine my surprise at what I eventually discovered.

Elvis talks to black reporters backstage at Detroits Fox Theatre in May 1956.
  • www.elvis.com.au
  • Elvis talks to black reporters backstage at Detroit's Fox Theatre in May 1956.
I learned that the infamous “shine my shoes” quote was never verified, and was told second-hand to what basically was a 1950s tabloid rag out of Boston called Sepia. During the same time that Elvis supposedly gave this “quote,” he did an interview with Jet (yes, the black-owned Jet magazine) in which he spoke openly about the controversy and the origins of rock ’n’ roll as black music. “I never said anything like that, and people who know me know that I wouldn't have said it,” he told Jet. “A lot of people seem to think I started this business. But rock ’n’ roll was here a long time before I came along. Nobody can sing that kind of music like colored people. Let's face it: I can't sing like Fats Domino can. I know that.”

I found quotes from notable black musicians and celebrities, detailing their experiences with Elvis, which ranged from respectful to affectionate. James Brown said, “I wasn't just a fan, I was his brother.” B.B. King was also close to Presley throughout his life and Ike Turner reportedly let Elvis carry his band's gear early on and claimed he was the first man to put Elvis on a stage. Muhammad Ali, who let Elvis live with him while he trained for a bout against Joe Frazier, said, “Elvis was my close personal friend. I don't admire nobody, but Elvis Presley was the sweetest, most humble and nicest man you'd want to know.”

Additionally, though artists like Fats Domino, Big Joe Turner, and Jackie Brenston had been recording rock ’n’ roll long before Elvis, the painting of Elvis as no more than a white culture thief of black music, while not being completely erroneous, was at the very least overstated. I'd always been led to believe that rock ’n’ roll was a sea of Black faces until this one gyrating white guy came along. But Elvis wasn't the first white man to sing rock ’n’ roll; Bill Haley was charting two years before anybody had heard of Elvis. I also believed icons like Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Bo Diddley had made their mark prior to Elvis “stealing” all of the credit — Elvis first single, “That's Alright,” was a year before Chuck's first (“Maybelline”), Diddley's first (“Bo Diddley”) or Richard's breakthrough (“Tutti Frutti.”) Of course, it would be naïve and wrongheaded to pretend that Elvis' race did not make the path to superstardom much easier for him in 1950s America; but it wasn't just his race that made him popular. Elvis was a good-looking kid. Chuck Berry was thirty singing to teenage girls, Little Richard's flamboyance made him unlikely to be a teen idol to anyone in 1956; and even the white Bill Haley looked more like a math teacher than a rock ’n’ roller. Elvis had looks and charisma — in addition to being a young white guy. So, is it blasphemy to call him “The King” of a genre he didn't invent? I don't believe Michael Jackson invented pop music; and I don't believe Aretha Franklin invented soul. So are they also not allowed to lay claim to their royal titles?

That Elvis had a much bigger hit with “Hound Dog” compared to its original singer, Big Mama Thornton, is also often cited as evidence of his benefitting solely from being a white face. But in the 1950s, hit songs would be recorded by several artists; and while there were many blatant examples of “white washing” black hits for white audiences (see: Pat Boone), it wasn't automatic that the White artist would have the bigger hit or the definitive version. “Blueberry Hill” is considered by many to be Fats Domino's signature song, but it had been written by Vincent Rose and recorded by several artists prior to his much more well-known 1956 version. There is more nuance in the discussion of who-recorded-what-first-and-why than many like to consider.

I'd even been led to believe that Otis Blackwell, the man who wrote many of Elvis' early hits, died penniless largely because he was screwed financially by the nefarious Presley. But Blackwell received royalties for his songs for years, and was at one point substantially well-off due to those royalties. He died in 2002 having lived under tremendous financial straits in his latter years, but that was mostly due to tax issues and years of alcoholism — neither of which had anything to do with Elvis.

The idea of Elvis as an iconic rebel leading the charge into a bold new age is also patently false. Elvis craved acceptance from the establishment and the older generation. His rebellion was mostly in the hearts and minds of his audience; not in the intent of Presley himself. He wanted to make music, and reacted with an aw-shucks chagrin whenever discussing the disdain that older, mostly white people had for his image and the fact that he sang sexually-charged “race” music. When he was dismissed by the elder statesmen of the recording industry, like Frank Sinatra, it crushed him. That need for acceptance is what led Elvis away from his early R&B/rock & roll sound and towards middle-of-the-road pop heading into the ’60s.

He also came to resent rock's second generation; a generation that existed largely because of him. He scoffed condescendingly during his 1969 comeback special while discussing “new groups” and their “long hair.” He also famously penned a letter to Richard Nixon asking to be given the title of “Federal Agent At-Large” in the fight against drugs; as he bemoaned the influence he felt acts like the Beatles had on the younger generation.

There will never be a time when Elvis doesn't spark discussion and debate. He should. His musical legacy is a defining moment in our history; that moment when Black music, vernacular, and culture became the driving force in how all American youth began to see themselves. The trickle that had begun with jazz as far back as the ’20s was, by the late 1950s, a flood that couldn't be denied. Which is why the white establishment fought so hard against it. But, as many fans observe the 35th anniversary of his death, its important to ignore the hearsay and conjecture surrounding this “King of Rock ’n’ Roll,” and look at the reality of who he was as a man and a musical figure. Before we rush to tear him down or build him up.


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bindy View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (4) Thanks(4)   Quote bindy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Aug 20 2012 at 10:54am

summary please. He looks cute in the above pic.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (10) Thanks(10)   Quote ummmok Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Aug 20 2012 at 10:58am
He should put all that research on something more significant, not Elvis. I still don't get the fascination lol.

And of course he'll deny the shoe shining comment when he's being interviewed by a Black magazine. And yes, I still think he stole Black people's music lol. Him along with many others.

But forreal, he and Marilyn I don't give 2 sh*ts about.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (10) Thanks(10)   Quote BrownQtee Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Aug 20 2012 at 11:00am
Originally posted by ummmok ummmok wrote:

He should put all that research on something more significant, not Elvis. I still don't get the fascination lol.

And of course he'll deny the shoe shining comment when he's being interviewed by a Black magazine. And yes, I still think he stole Black people's music lol. Him along with many others.

But forreal, he and Marilyn I don't give 2 sh*ts about.
 
This. The fascination with a druggie prostitute yt woman kills me every time.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote FarraFace Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Aug 20 2012 at 11:08am
Zeus on Olympus. Them eyes, that nose, them lips, them lips, them lips!

*fans self furiously*

And y'all can get as mad as y'all want to, it will matter a damn.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (5) Thanks(5)   Quote Alias_Avi Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Aug 20 2012 at 11:13am
He did it because it's 'Elvis week' or whatever

I just can't stand Black people who go out of their way to make the people in their communities look like evil 'meanies' who unjustly disliked a likeable White person... and then write about it TO a mainly White publication... ekk Ermm

Im pretty sure most Black ppl don't 'dislike' Elvis as much as we are indifferent to him but really dislike the pedastal Whites put him on and the disrespect and the shade White Americans have always given our original music artists

No where did he even explain the difference... damn coon Sleepy

Originally posted by ummmok ummmok wrote:

He should put all that research on something more significant, not Elvis. I still don't get the fascination lol.

And of course he'll deny the shoe shining comment when he's being interviewed by a Black magazine. And yes, I still think he stole Black people's music lol. Him along with many others.

But forreal, he and Marilyn I don't give 2 sh*ts about.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (7) Thanks(7)   Quote Veemack Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Aug 20 2012 at 11:15am
Notice the way Jackie moves his leg, and the vibration in his voice. Sound or look familiar? Elvis copied this man more than he copied anyone else. And he knew it, this is why Elvis helped to take care of Jackie when he was in the rest home. Elvis is not original in anyway.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (5) Thanks(5)   Quote Alias_Avi Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Aug 20 2012 at 11:18am
Have you noticed that Michael Jackson hardly ever mentioned Elvis but always went out of his way to give props to Jackie Wilson? LOL


Im pretty sure Michael was a lil salty about the recognition of Elvis and not Jackie

I've never really heard anyone give credit to Jackie the way MJ did





Edited by Alias_Avi - Aug 20 2012 at 11:19am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ummmok Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Aug 20 2012 at 11:19am
^Wow, he's like a replica of him. I'm going to start listening to oldies again, kinda depressing though lol.

Good points Alias

BrownQtee, me too
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (3) Thanks(3)   Quote James Avery Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Aug 20 2012 at 11:21am
Originally posted by BrownQtee BrownQtee wrote:

Originally posted by ummmok ummmok wrote:

He should put all that research on something more significant, not Elvis. I still don't get the fascination lol.

And of course he'll deny the shoe shining comment when he's being interviewed by a Black magazine. And yes, I still think he stole Black people's music lol. Him along with many others.

But forreal, he and Marilyn I don't give 2 sh*ts about.
 
This. The fascination with a druggie prostitute yt woman kills me every time.
most overrated woman in history.
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