How The King Changed Society
Elvis Presley, the embodiment of the American Dream, rose from rags to riches. Elvis Aaron Presley was born in Tupelo, Mississippi on January 8, 1935. He was an American singer and actor who would become one of the most significant cultural icons of the twentieth century. He was raised by his working-class parents with little money and a strong faith in God. He attended church every Sunday, where he would be heavily influenced by gospel music. After living in Tupelo for thirteen years, he and his family moved to Memphis, Tennessee. Elvis’s rise to stardom began when he recorded at Sun Records with Sam Phillips, his producer. Phillips wanted Presley to bring the sound of African American music to a grander audience. Elvis Presley greatly impacted American society by creating and developing the new genre of Rock n Roll, paving the path for African Americans to enter the world of music, and challenging moral and social standards through his suggestive performances.
To begin with, Elvis influenced countless musicians through his new music of Rock n Roll and his powerful voice. For instance, John Lennon once expressed that before Elvis Presley came onto the scene, music was nothing (Meacham and Rumer). Elvis developed a new genre inspired by his childhood that many musicians would follow. He blended the sounds of the south and the church music that he loved so dearly and was able to make music that people of all generations could enjoy. In addition, Presley sold so many albums that he “is thought to be the most commercially successful solo musical artist of all time” (Meacham and Rumer). Elvis’s music lives on today because of its relevance and rhythm. He uses music that a plethora of people listen to and enjoy. A wide variety of listeners can relate to his music because he uses different sounds like gospel, blues, and country music. Furthermore, many rock stars such as John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, and Prince “owe an explicit debt to Presley” (Marsh). The celebrities of today look back to Presley for inspiration. Countless stars give Elvis credit because he was the pioneer of Rock n Roll. Because Elvis’s music was new and interesting, his sound would shape the world of Rock n Roll for posterity.
Additionally, Elvis helped create a path for African Americans to enter and become successful in the industry of music. To begin, James Brown, also known as the “Godfather of Soul” praises Elvis in his autobiography: “Elvis was a hard worker, dedicated, and God loved him ... I love him and hope to see him in heaven. There'll never be another like that soul brother” (Troedson). It is evident through Brown’s words that he respected and adored Elvis Presley. Elvis played a huge role in Brown’s career because they integrated sound, music, and lyrics. James Brown is just one example of many artists that Elvis’s music helped. Furthermore, Elvis showed appreciation to African Americans’ style because he “was always scrupulous in crediting his black sources” (Marsh). Presley respected African American performers and their music and disregarded the norms of racial prejudice that were common in the South. Elvis made it possible for many African American artists such as Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Fats Domino to achieve stardom during the 1960s because his music emulated their sound. Elvis brought the white audiences’ attention toward the African American musicians due to his music. Also, Phillips, the producer at Sun Records, realized that “‘for black music to come to its rightful place in this country, … white singers [would have to] come over and do black music’” (Meacham and Rumer). From the beginning, Presley was aware of the fact that he was not to copy or discredit African American music. Instead, he was supposed to present the music to a white audience so it would gain its deserved recognition in America. Because Elvis’s music was inspired by the variety of genres that he grew up with, he showcased a new sound that would bring diversity into the music business.
Finally, Presley was the leader of a new generation that would normalize rebellious acts through pelvic thrusts, new fashion choices, and loud music. For instance, many parents of the time berated Elvis’s music because “rock 'n' roll was too loud, too raucous, too sexual, or too black.” (Welsh). Parents and religious leaders would ban Presley’s music because they feared the impact of it on their children; they were afraid that his persona would turn their children towards disobedience and rebellion. This also demonstrates the racism within the country because of the negative connotation towards black music. To illustrate, when Presley performed on the Milton Berle Show for the second time, his “hip-thrusting performance split America” (“Elvis Unleashes 'Snake Hips' On TV”). Throughout his career, Presley’s stage presence was seen as filthy or disgusting by the parents of the generation. He would kick start the ideal rock star through his ability to command the attention of an audience by the impressiveness of his appearance. When discussing Presley, two sections of Americans would often appear: those who adored him and those who admonished him. His movements would discern parents about their children, so they would swoon over the Rock n Roll icon. Also, Presley’s music would be hindered by racial bias in the south when “a white Southern church group wanted rock 'n' roll suppressed” because they claimed, “it was a plot by the National Association of Colored People to corrupt white youth” (Welch). The group’s attitude towards Presley’s music shows ignorance not only towards Rock n Roll but also towards African Americans. Presley was so influential that he had a Southern church group addressing his style and personality. Presley; with his husky voice, gyrating hips and hooded eyes; embodied desire and attraction and would change the picture of a performer.
As expressed, Elvis Presley greatly impacted American society by means of creating a new style of music, opening the door to allow African Americans to enter the music industry, and changing moral and social norms through his provocative performances. In America, we see the effect of Presley on the radio and the television. His presence has truly never ceased to amaze the American people. There is a fascination with his story that keeps people of all ages enthralled. Musicians everywhere will have to live in the shadow of “the King”. There will constantly be comparisons of up and rising stars to the pioneer of Rock n Roll. In short, Elvis Presley can never truly leave the building.
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