To be completely honest, I did not realize that today was Elvis’ birthday. Oddly, I was reading about his involvement with Buddy Holly at the time I found out. I then figured that he deserves a post since he is the King of Rock and Roll.
This isn’t going to be over one album. Actually, I don’t have many of Elvis’ trailblazing albums. I have a couple of reissues and a lot of his later recordings, nevertheless, I’ve always been a fan. Recently I have begun to do research on the origins of Rock and Roll and the history of Rockabilly and Elvis is at the forefront. This has made me realize a different depth of what it means to be a trailblazer or simply a popular artist.
When what we call Rock and Roll today came on to the scene in the 1950’s they didn’t have a name for it. It contained bits of R&B, hillbilly music, gospel, country music, and some crazy new guitar riffs. It was a melting pot of every genre spiced with innovation. There were many who helped move this music in, but Elvis has risen as the icon of that movement. Without the Rockabilly movement music would sound drastically different today.
I now see a larger picture. Elvis may be dead, and he may have quit recording Rockabilly later in his career, but all this is alive today. His style is still heard in the likes of many artists today. His aggressive stage presence and “movements” are still being imitated. His songs have been covered by almost every artist under the sun. His career demands respect.
Unfortuantly, I now feel that Elvis’ legacy has been trivialized through various forms of memorabilia and marketing schemes. I can walk into almost any music store (or Wal-Mart) and at least find a set of playing cards with his likeness or a set of coasters with his album covers. I can adorn my fridge with every image he ever posed for and I can decorate a full Christmas tree with different figures depicting his likeness. I have even seen Elvis themed underwear.
So for this post I would like us to remember what the King of Rock and Roll was, a trailblazer in its most prominent form, an innovator, and someone who pushed the envelope. When I listen to Elvis’ voice I hear someone who wasn’t scared of the mainstream and what they deemed acceptable or normal, but I hear someone who wanted to move music a little further and create a new canvas of music for artists to paint on. He asked what if and then he did.
Okie Fun Fact: Elvis’ number one record, “Heartbreak Hotel,” was co-written by an Oklahoman from Comanche, Mae Boren Axton.