Elvis Presley Essay, Research Paper
The public made Elvis Presley larger than life, better known than Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon and in some cases God Himself.
I cannot quite understand the Elvis craze. I don’t think he was a handsome man, I don’t enjoy his music, I won’t waste my time trying to sit through one of his boring, talentless movies, and if, God forbid, I end up on my deathbed with some horrible, incurable disease, I certainly won’t make a pilgrimage to Graceland to be miraculously healed.
Jack Gould conveyed some of my feeling in the essay TV: New Phenomenon when he wrote, “Mr. Presley has no discernible singing ability.”
Although he gave away cars, cash, and gifts to friends, family, and sometimes, strangers, I can’t think of any of his contributions that merits his God-like status.
Cults and “churches” have been formed to worship him. One such “church” named “The First Presleyterian Church of Elvis the Divine” in Colorado claims he paid them a visit, and he was as young and in shape as he was in his early years. There are websites dedicated to proving that Elvis and Jesus are one and the same. People claim to have seen Elvis alive at grocery stores and at parks. There is also a website devoted to the cloning of “The King” himself. People have just gone overboard worshipping Elvis! The same mothers and fathers who can’t understand son or daughter’s fascination with the Backstreet Boys are buying vials of Elvis’s sweat from the Internet. It scares me to think that some if these people will soon be participating in the nationwide vote for a new president.
Born January 8, 1935 to Gladys and Vernon Presley, the odds were against Elvis Aaron Presley from the moment the entered this world. The fact that he ascended from his dirt poor roots to superstar status is a major factor of why he was so popular in the South among the lower middle class, and the diversity in his style contributed to his assorted fan base. In his teen years, Elvis absorbed the cultural aspects and musical style of Country, Gospel, and Rhythm & Blues. He lived in the South, where Country music was most prevalent, it was sort of a “given” for him for him to adopt the country music style. His parents were devout churchgoers, and Elvis frequently attended the all night revivals, where he enjoyed jumping around and singing the gospel. It is also known that Elvis spent quite a bit of time on Memphis’s Beale Street, known for its Rhythm & Blues clubs.
When Elvis did unoriginal songs that had been sung previously by other artists, he added his own flavor that was made up of his mixed Gospel, Country, and R & B background. His style drew diverse crowds, and songs such as “Hound Dog” and “Don’t Be Cruel” went to #1 in the Country, R & B and Pop charts. None of this justifies the deification of Elvis.
After a brief stint in the US Army, Elvis started concentrating more on movies. He made a wide variety of movies, GI Blues, Blue Hawaii, Viva Las Vegas, and Fun in Acapulco to name a few. Although the movies were basically glorified music videos, as they contained no real plot and a lot of singing, these movies and their songs made millions.
I honestly think that if the “Elvis myth” that is discussed in Griel Marcus’s essay, Presliad, had not already been put in place by Elvis’s fans, the movies would not have grossed half the money, and his career would have taken a turn for the worse.
Marcus explains his theory of the Elvis “myth” in his essay, “Performing a kind of enormous victory rather than winning it, Elvis strides the boards with such glamour, such magnetism, that he allows his audience to transcend their desire for his talent. Action is irrelevant when one can simply delight in the presence of a man who has made history, and who has triumphed over it.” Elvis could have nose-whistled the Star Spangled Banner, and still made girls faint at his performance.
In 1969, he began his Vegas career with the urging of his manager, Colonel Parker. As the years passed and the pounds piled on, he and his wife of 6 years, who was 11 years younger than he, divorced in 1973. The touring and appearances proved too much for the couple. This plunged Elvis into a deep depression, and he started to doubt himself, and became more self-conscious.
Elvis loved down-home country cooking, and he would gorge himself when not touring. When it came close to time to tour again, he would go on ridiculous diets, and compounded his health problems by becoming hooked on non-prescription and prescription drugs, including diet pills and sleep inducing medication.
Many authors say that, in hindsight, toward the end Elvis was a complete mess onstage, mumbling his words, and trying his hardest to belt out his famous tunes. In the sympathetic biography Elvis: The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Rupert Matthews writes about a video of his June 21, 1977 concert, “His face is puffy, his movements slow and at one point he has to be helped upright. During breaks in the music, when he speaks to the audience, he can barely mutter and mumble. But despite this, he manages to perform with power and authority.”
Elvis’s public was so consumed with the myth of Elvis, they barely noticed or cared. They only cared that they were witnessing “The King” in person, and what an honor it was to be in his presence.
Marcus stated, “It is as if there is nothing Elvis could do to overshadow a performance of his myth.” My interpretation of this is that Elvis’s career was now controlled and being steered by his fans and anything he did, good or bad, to try to change the direction or style of his career was worthless.
Some Elvis-worshippers may think the reason I don’t care for Elvis may be the times in which I grew up. I highly doubt that, as I have never put anyone on a pedestal and glorified him or her as so many have done with Elvis.
When I began my research on this paper, I had no clue as to why anyone would waste a week of their life to attend “Elvis Week” and to pay homage to the great “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.” Or why anyone would dedicate all of his or her spare time to create and maintain a website dedicated to a man who has been dead for 20+ years. After all of my research at the library and on the internet, learning about his roots and his family, his rise to stardom, his military career, his film career, his Vegas career, and his personal life with all of its women and drugs, I still have no clue. Neither do the people who create the websites or write the books in honor of him.