It is the 1950’s, people are sneaking out and going to parties without telling their parents. They are wearing all black, but it is not to hide at night, it is a statement. Music is blaring and Elvis comes on. All the kids are going crazy, but why? Elvis was unique for his time. He was an icon to the youth and a villain to adults. He was hated by the few for all the wrong reasons and adored by the many for all the right reasons. Those who understood Elvis connected with him, and those who did not simply denoted him as a rebel. Elvis was one of the most influential people of his time and all of his artworks impacted each youth with passion and heart, and left a lasting impact on the world with his spark for change.
Elvis would not have been as important as he was without his influences and upbringing. Each artist of the ‘Elvis era’ was unique but Elvis is vastly different from all the rest. So much so, that it led Elvis to craft a unique style that made him famous. In the web article, “ The Black Artists that Inspired Elvis Presley”, the author writes, “That music is the primary focus of the new documentary Elvis Presley: The Searchers. It follows the evolution of Elvis’s sound from mixing up gospel, blues and country in the ’50s through to the movie musicals and Vegas crooning in the ’60s”(Bhasin). Music genres in the 50’s were shifting. With a growing number of African American artists, musical genres were becoming more representative of the culture. Elvis took a huge role in this as his music was influenced as well. Much of his music was influenced by large artists but what he was most influenced by was their lyrical themes and style. Elvis adopted many of the musical themes stated in the quote and expressed them in all of his songs. He successfully integrated several musical themes to create a unique style that fit his persona, and made him so vastly popular in a generation that was learning to become accustomed to a rising African American culture. Because Elvis fostered such a unique style, he became extremely influential in a short period of time. Elvis’s dancing, another one of his distinct features, was also only adopted from other artists.
In the web article, “ The Black Artists that Inspired Elvis Presley”, the author writes,“White artists like Pat Boone and Bill Haley frequently sanitised and released the songs of black artists, who were often paid very little if at all by record companies. These covers often climbed much higher up the charts than the original versions, which were considered too dirty or sexual” (Bhasin). Sexual profanity was taboo in American pop culture during and prior to the early 1950’s, and for Elvis to display it in his art was controversial at the time. This controversy generated a lot of attention to Elvis and his music. Lucky for him though, times were changing, and as people began to accept profanity in their daily lives, he had the opportunity to make himself known as the first to display it. And while he was not technically the first to be sexual in both his lyrics and dancing, he was the first to be accepted for it. Elvis’s upbringing was unique from other artists. Such a unique childhood allowed him to create a style that was foreign to the modern society. It was the beginning of an era that marked him for greatness.
Elvis Presley was everything history has made him out to be, and more. In his era, his bizarre dances, crude lyrics, and clothing styles were unheard of, but very much adored. His impact on the youth of his time was immeasurable, and ironically could not be placed in words. The magazine article “Presley Gave Rock its Style”, appeared in the publication The New York Times Magazine, in the 1970’s. In the article, the author writes, “The songs were tough and driving in a time, 20 years ago, when American popular music was still based on Tin Pan Alley tune?smithing. And the image was of a working?class rebel, pushing sex into the nation’s consciousness long before the “sexual revolution.” With his ominous, greasy, swirling locks, his leather jacket and his aggressive undulations, Elvis was a performer whom parents abhorred, young women adored and young men instantly imitated” (Rockwell). Elvis was an icon to the youth of his time. His unique style was daring, and to the youth, his quickly became their role model. Elvis in general, embodied the rebellious look that many kids adored, including the leather and hair, but many adults hated. This in turn gave the youth a hero for them to imitate and admire, but also gave adults a target to accuse. His different style led an entire generation to begin the ‘punk rock’ look.
Elvis’s style also brought up other controversy regarding his style and whether or not it was deemed appropriate by the public. In the article, “Presley Gave Rock its Style”, the author writes, “Elvis’s first national impact—the “Elvis the Pelvis” days—saw the greatest eruption of hysteria about a singer since the days of the young Frank Sinatra. He was mobbed and idolized, even as he was denounced as the devil’s tool” (Rockwell). Many parents did not believe Elvis was a good influence on their kids. His absurd and inadvertent sexuality was viewed in horror by parents of the time. Parents also knew that Elvis was their icon, and they did not like the fact that their music of the past was being forgotten so quickly and keenly (Rockwell). Sexuality in pop culture was slowly but surely beginning to become accepted, however many parents who were raised in a different generation did not take nicely to the themes at all. Eventually in the end however, Elvis was influential to the youth and impacted an entire generation by changing their styles, attitude, and their views on society.
Elvis’s influence still resonates today, and as the king of rock, he lives in infamy. His impacts on the world of music are unsurpassable by other modern artists today. His influence still lasts and can be heard in modern music. In the periodical, “ The Meaning of Elvis”, the author writes, “His persona was a dramatic new paradox: one side of him the infamous upturned lip, the wild concert performances burning with a raw sexuality of voice and body; somehow co-existing in the same person with the momma’s boy, the Southern charm and politeness, the boy on a pew” (Mcconnell). Many of the sexual themes in Elvis’s music, including dance and lyrics can still be heard in almost all forms of modern music. Modern musical genres such Rock, Pop, Hip Hop/Rap, Country, and many more feature sexual innuendos just as Elvis’s music once did. Not many artists of history could say they left a mark in the music industry, but Elvis definitely did since many musical genres that he brought to the public, are still popular today and in modern music. In the text, “The Meaning of Elvis”, the author writes, “A 2009 CBS News Poll found that Presley’s popularity had not dropped in the previous ten years and that 42 percent of Americans describe themselves as Elvis fans. A 2012 ABC News poll found that ‘38 percent of Americans name Elvis Presley as the greatest rock ’n’ roll star ever. Of the 128 performers named, no one else even breaks single digits”’ (Mcconnell). Elvis’s music has been so influential in the music industry that soon after his era, he was crowned ‘The King of Rock n’ Roll’. The most significant matter of these statistics is its proof of Elvis’s relevancy. Elvis has remained at the top of his industry even after death (Mcconnell). His popularity has not diminished, nor has his position. As the first to produce and present a foreign music theme, he is remembered as the ‘King of Rock’. Proven by the statistics shown, Elvis still remains at the forefront of the industry.
Elvis will always remain in infamy as the king of rock. His unique characteristics and impact in the world will forever reflect his greatness.Elvis was one of the most influential people of his time and all of his artworks were derived from a rich history of African American influences, impacted each youth with passion and heart, and left a lasting impact on the world with his spark for change. Elvis wasn’t an ordinary artist. He didn’t have a single special moment to be recalled a few times and then be forgotten. Elvis paved a pathway for a new generation to express themselves. Elvis’s abundance of influence including an influence on youth, and influence on the music of generations to come made his legacy. How many other artists could claim such an accomplishment?
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