Trying To Get To You

Thursday, January 08, 2009

A Happy 74th To Elvis Presley!

Had he lived, Elvis Presley would be 74 years old today. He has long since passed into the realm of myth - a Rorschach test upon which people project their thoughts, opinions, desires, feelings, resentments and dismissals about almost any conceivable topic: Music, America, race, culture, materialism, decline and a few hundred subjects.

I've never cared much about any of that. The fact is that Elvis was a sublime singer and a singular presence as a performer and instigator of a cultural movement whose repercussions we continue to live with today. It's a common canard that Elvis won his acclaim because he was white and some of his other contemporaries (Chuck Berry, Little Richard, etc.) were black, and that he was just derivative of them. But Elvis Presley released his first singles in 1954, before Chuck Berry and Little Richard ever released a record. (And Elvis was more charismatic than Chuck, and prettier and more versatile than Richard.) He could sing anything - rock, country, r&b, gospel - and when he was at his best, during the 50's and his late 60's comeback, he wove together those various strands of American music to create something mythic in scope, a force which resounded all over the world.

Unfortunately, his music, like much early rock, gets far less respect and acclaim than it deserves; it’s been subsumed by the myth. To many, the songs sound like quaint period pieces. I think they are still stunning. “Hound Dog” remains explosive. “Mystery Train,” “Baby Let’s Play House,” “Milkcow Blues Boogie,” “Good Rockin’ Tonight,” “Trying To Get To You,” “Heartbreak Hotel,” and “Jailhouse Rock” continue to provide joy, delight, and a far greater sense of risk, danger and sex than the most rebellious punk band you can find.

Happy birthday Elvis! For my money, you are still, and will always be, the King.

Buy Elvis Presley at Amazon (No record collection should exist without The Sun Sessions, his Greatest Hits, or the NBC-TV Special!)

Download: Bruce Springsteen "I Can't Help Falling In Love With You" 8/27/85, Toronto, ON (A very great version preceded by Springsteen talking about what Elvis meant to him - both as possibility and warning.)



4 comments:

Debs said...

thanks for those thoughts Ben...and for putting everything into such clear focus as ever:

"The fact is that Elvis was a sublime singer and a singular presence as a performer and instigator of a cultural movement whose repercussions we continue to live with today..."

brilliant!

i've have been listening to the 4 disc box set "Close Up" today...

Ben Lazar said...

Thanks Debs for your comments. I'm rockin' "The Sun Sessions" today...still amazing.

sarah said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



Sarah

http://www.thetreadmillguide.com

Keith said...

What a great post! I love Elvis. He is still the King to me. Those songs are timeless. They still have an impact to me to this day. He was an incredibly talented man who doesn't always get the credit he deserves. The tabloid stories tend to overshadow who he truly was. He's an icon and a legend.

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