Bruce Springsteen, in his underrated song “local hero,” sings, “first they made me king / then they made me Pope / then they brought the rope…”
Not so long ago that Elvis Presley is one of the musicians that inspired Springsteen, John Lennon and many other legends was a permanent home in the American Pantheon. Despite all his flaws, he was an innovator who contributed to the emergence of rock ‘ n ‘ roll, youth culture, artistic expression in Popular entertainment.
It happened because of his ideas about American ideals of freedom and individuality, which in 1959 protesting against Soviet tyranny in East Berlin, carrying placards with his image, and chant the name “George Washington” and “JFK”—but the “Elvis!”
Today, protesters stormed the Pantheon, want to carry some trace of Elvis iconography.
The hostility towards Elvis is not just the result of countless impostors, turning it into Kitsch in a karaoke room; it is also because of tired and dull the accusation that Elvis is a music thief, the last amplification that relies on the scientific words “cultural appropriation.”
Thus, Michael Eric Dyson free with Elvis “performing the derived black”, and Qian Fitzgerald, writer and DJ, claims that Elvis did nothing more than sing “a watered down version of black Blues.”
The problem with a view of Elvis as race hustler is that it depends on the disciplined pursuit of ignorance.
Sam Phillips, founder of sun Studio, believed that through the right mixture of artistic and commercial chemicals, it can encapsulate the magic formula for musical entertainment visible and palpable in the bars on Beale Street, churches in the area, and worn wooden floors to the folk dances. Already recorded B. B. king, Howlin ‘ wolf, and the first rock and roll song—“rocket 88” Jackie Brenston—he was still in search of the stars, someone charismatic, talented, and, Yes, white, who can bust ribald rhythm and Blues through the door into the mainstream.
Phillips I don’t think he found his man when the skinny 19-year-old truck driver was in the sun and timidly announced himself as “Elvis Presley.” As the forecast for the carnal spell Elvis could give the world of women, he was Phillips ‘ Secretary, Marion Keisker, who insisted to her boss that the young man, as nervous and unfocused, as he looked, there was something mysterious and erotic about it.
Convinced to give him an audition, Phillips has arranged for bill black on bass and Scotty Moore on guitar to record with Elvis, who’s going to play on rhythm guitar and vocals. The night was over, not producing anything other than boredom and frustration. Phillips watched as Elvis struggle to find a rhythm, stumbling and fumbling over his vocals. His patience exhausted, he instructed everyone to pack up and go home.
Perhaps rebelling against his own disappointment that Elvis called demonic angel musical possession. As Black and Moore laid down his tools, he grabbed the guitar and at breakneck speed began to shout, old, slow Blues song: “it’s all right, Mama / all right with you that’s all right, Mama / what would you do…”
Phillips broke into the music room as if he was fleeing a burning building. “What was that?”, — asked Elvis. Already feeling dejected from a few hours of failure, the young singer said, “Oh, I’m sorry. I was just kidding around”.
“Well, whatever it is that you need to do it again.” Two days later Phillips gave the first single Presley “that’s all right”is a rhythmically rethinking Arthur song for Crudup in Memphis DJ. The reaction was so powerful that he played 14 times before his shift ended.
The man who wanted to become the world’s first rock star had no plot to “steal black music” or even to create a certain type of music. The success and history of his first single and the launch of superstars was the natural result of primary emotional and carnal burst of instant creativity. “The music was for several centuries, the” abstractionist artist Wassily Kandinsky wrote: “the art which has devoted itself not to the reproduction of natural phenomena, and the expression of the artist’s soul.”
Elvis began singing before he could even remember. Bouncing on his mother’s knee in Church, he will try to imitate what he heard of the soloists in the choir. When he was eight or nine, he began taking his solo. The radio at his home in Tupelo, Mississippi, has always been set to country. At the age of 10 years old Elvis took fifth place in a talent show at a County fair, with his song “Old Shep.”
The Presley family moved to Memphis during the teenage years of Elvis. When their Sunday morning service is over, Elvis would ride a bike, sit in the back Pew of a black Church to love what he heard just like the old country ballads. He not only bought the clothes on Beale Street, but snuck into bars to hear the rhythm and the Blues. Intrigued by the white child is holding the walls, a few band leaders invited him on stage to sing harmony. As a teenager, he also attended the gospel Quartet festivals, where he snuck backstage to meet one of his heroes, John. D. Sumner, the same baritone who would one day provide backing vocals on Elvis’s group during the 1970s and singing at the memorial service for mom Elvis.
“My music is a combination of country, gospel and rhythm and Blues,” Elvis explained in 1971. It is a noble sounds of the white gospel quartets, black gospel, spirituals, rural country and urban Blues to the same frequency as its spirit, providing a tour of musical milestones and memories of his young life. He wasn’t black. He wasn’t white. This ain’t the Blues. It is not a country. It was a transcendence of classification was possible only in cultural, ethnic American experience. To reduce the spontaneous invention of Elvis “derivatives of black” — to simplify the complex and show narrow and shallow thinking in the violation of human ambitions.
It’s easy to make a case in purely musical terms. Larry Nager, a historian and guitarist, writes in his book, Memphis beat: the lives and times of American musical crossroads, “Elvis guitar style (that’s all right) strictly country rhythm, open chords ringing strings strumming with a straight point. Those who say Elvis did nothing more than rip off black Blues musicians need look no further than his guitar playing for proof to the contrary. No bluesman was playing a rhythm like that.”
Elvis sang with a voice ecstatic delivery of gospel and Blues, but he never excluded his country twang. For his follow up to “it’s all right,” he moved “Blue Moon of Kentucky”—the song “father «Bluegrass»,” bill Monroe rockabilly hit. It’s no wonder that Elvis is a member of the Country music hall of Fame.
Elvis is often neglected by the magic of the American experience. This is the magic that Walt Whitman said when he announced the US “a new nation needs a new poets”. Elvis was one of those poets, someone who can not only Express and embody American innovation, which is its emphasis on the freedom of the individual and its racial, religious, ethnic, sexual and regional differences. There is a sense in an era of mediocrity in American culture, with our understanding of everything from politics to pop music boils down to the slogans on social networks, what’s old and boring criticism of Elvis found new ears.
Documentary Elvis Presley: the Seeker, was held recently on HBO. It’s visually exciting, but conceptually as dumb as she presented too sanitized version of the story of Elvis. Obvious problems—it singer the ability to self-destruct and his inexplicable passivity, while stupid and greedy management cornered him in bad movies and music—analysis of demand, and make the Elvis like no other, to hagiography.
The documentary was a success, however, emphasizing the truth Tom petty has for Elvis achievement: “we must not make the mistake of writing off a great artist all the roar that came later. We have to live on what he did that was so beautiful and eternal, which had that great, great music.”
The artistry of Elvis was the administration of the fusion. As Patty reminded the audience that he was not created rock-n-roll, but “something new” music, which is the touchstone for all varieties of the American experience. And he created himself: for better and for worse the first TV-musical icon.
Bob Dylan said the first time he heard Elvis, he felt he was “jailbreak”. The early success of Elvis became a symbol of emancipation, and the glitter of crossing boundaries in the creative search.
“Cultural appropriation” cry is an attempt to strengthen the parochial boundaries of vulgarity. More than any American singer, Elvis was the product and promoter of multiculturalism. It is a sad irony that the left has now cast him as the villain. Even a partial list of those who disagree enough to expose the absurdity of the charges: John Lee hooker, James brown, Rufus Thomas, Chuck berry and B. B. king once said that “Elvis was all.”
To deny the true intelligence of Elvis to vandalize the American promise and man’s idea of his own invention. Instead of encouraging a free-thinker to break out of intellectual and cultural prison, he puts the spirit in solitary confinement.
David Masciotra (www.davidmasciotra.com) is the author of four books, including Mellencamp: American Troubadour (University press of Kentucky) and Barack Obama: the invisible man (eyewear publishing).