There’s a great line in a Paul Simon song: “Every generation throws a hero up the pop chart.” The postwar generation threw up Elvis. So to speak.
The teen musical culture in the mid-1950s was perfectly set for a new icon. Performers such as Little Richard and Chuck Berry popularized a strain of rhythm and blues that appealed to white kids, but scandalized their elders. Suddenly, a Southern boy with gospel roots burst on the scene, blending the R&B style with the growing field of country music. That R&B/Country mix got a new name: Rock. And Rock got a king: Elvis.
Of course, there were two Elvi (thanks, SNL). Young Elvis, who had hit after hit and who made Viva Las Vegas and Blue Hawaii. Then there was Old Elvis, who wore the sequins and cape, took the drugs, played Las Vegas and ate Hawaii.
No post on Elvis would be complete without a chronicle of the King’s accomplishments. I don’t have enough space to list all of them, but here are some of the most significant. He had 38 top 10 hits, and 18 made it to number one. He was huge as a live performer (pun unintended, but liked), and sold out almost every show he ever performed. He’s in four separate music Halls of Fame. His first hit was “That’s All Right” (1954), and his final chart song…well, we don’t know, because remixed duets with other artists are still being made.
I realize this post just touches the surface of Elvis’s life, but a blog can only go so far. I remember the shock I felt when I learned of his death. It’s one of those “Do you remember where you were when…” moments. Although he was less relevant to the music of the 70s, it still hurt when we heard that Elvis had permanently left the building. In the video: The hip. The lip. The King.