Rock and Roll Can Never Die

Elvis means a lot of different things to a lot of people. To some zealous fans, he is a hero worthy of being impersonated. On the other hand, Public Enemy’s Chuck D considered him “straight up racist…simple and plain.” But before you motherfuck him and John Wayne, consider this: Elvis was just a kid who was moved by good music. Physically moved by it. He heard songs by Big Boy Crudup and by Bill Monroe and sang them with passion that shook up the world.

Elvis reading an early print edition of Glorious Noise.Elvis wasn’t the first honkey to imitate black musicians, not even close. Bill Haley beat him to it by several years, and let’s not even get into Stephen Foster and the weird, mean world of minstrelsy. Elvis wasn’t even the first to popularize the rebel attitude: Marlon Brando beat him to that punch in “The Wild One” and “A Streetcar Named Desire.” But he mixed up country and western music with rhythm and blues, and he donned black men’s fashion with a respectful Southern drawl, and he shook those hips and snarled that lip and dabbed a dollop of Royal Crown hair dressing in his hair and pretty much defined “cool” for white guys from there on out.

He made a lot of bad decisions and allowed others to manipulate him, and he kept going on stage well after he should have stopped to take care of himself.

We’ve been hearing a lot of people talk about Elvis this week, leading up to today, the 25th anniversary of his death. And most of it is a bunch of crap, including this article. Just listen to his music. Bust out the Sun Sessions or the 1969 Memphis recordings and just listen. Rock and roll doesn’t get better than that.

11 thoughts on “Rock and Roll Can Never Die”

  1. my parents & I visited Graceland for the first time ever this past May. My parents grew up during Elvis’ heyday, so their experience was different than mine. It was a borderline spiritual vacation for me since I’d only seen Elvis on television or heard him on the radio. I can’t call myself a “fan”, but since I’ve visited his home and basked in his accomplishments I can respect him as an American icon. I’m glad that you pointed out that he wasn’t the first white artist to copy black music & fashion. I think that Elvis should be respected for accomplishing so much, despite his downfall from drug-usage.

  2. While I’m a little down on the whole commercialized aspect of the whole Graceland tour (until they give full acess to the whole upstairs, E’s throne included), it was pretty cool to check it out during Elvis week one year and stroll the grounds and visit the graves with some of the most Elvis obsessed people in the world.

  3. Speaking of Elvis, what’s up with that “Too much conversation” song I keep hearing?…is it remix? never released song? someone impersonating elvis? I kind of like but never heard it until recently and have been wondering what it is…

  4. Elvis

    Sure he’s an icon but most of his music sucked once he hit Vegas. Good job he’s dead now anyway as he’d be just a very fat white guy in a jumpsuit singing from yesteryear. What always makes me laugh was that the King of Rock ‘n Roll died having a crap, not from a drug overdose or too much booze or cancer or suicide or a car /plane crash (ala buddy holly), no siree but from having a CRAP, some legend!

  5. Scally, you need to get your facts straight. The King died on the thrown, but it had as much to do with his heart being weakened by drug abuse as it did with his bowels. To deny the rock and roll coolness of this would be to claim that Jimi Hendrix died throwing up, Jim Morrison died taking a bath, or Brian Jones died taking a swim. As usual, there’s more to the picture than meets the eye. Hey hey my my.

    Also, you claim that Elvis’ music sucked once he hit Vegas. That was roughly 1970. The vast majority of his music sucked once he hit Hollywood (roughly 1960). Nevertheless, his 50s output alone makes him the most important American musician ever, and he had at least one good recording session at the end of the 60s, and his first couple of live Vegas albums were really as exciting and wild as anything he ever did. Check it out.

  6. I just love that story where elvis sent some kids into town to buy every lightbulb they could find.

    Elvis then filled his swimmiing pool with the bulbs and spent 3 days shooting the bulbs with his shotgun, watching them burst and sink to the bottom.

    Rock n roll decadence at its very best.

  7. There’s an article about Elvis, Inc in the latest Newsweek that’s pretty interesting…talking about the Elvis revival, promotion of the cool Elvis over the fat Elvis, and also about that new remix by Dutch DJ Junkie XL…

  8. bill haley was doing country and western before the film blackboard jungle and his songs were copied from other people especialy rocket88 it was not his version elvis was listening to ps remember elvis lives on in the hearts of millions TCE

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