Howard Jackson’s Treat Me Nice and books by Susan Doll are ushering in a new wave of Elvis writing.
Not retelling stories and facts, but digging for meaning and artistry – taking Elvis seriously as an artist, flaws and all.
A guest post hits right on point – something that I’ve been struggling to express and am humbled by the elegant and logical manner in which it is explained why Elvis continues to not be considered an artist.
When interviewed and asked about his aspirations, it was always to make a middle class life for his parents, then it was about making people happier and lightening their day for the duration of a song, a movie or a concert.
No message, just straight entertainment. As the man said himself prior to being the first world wide broadcast of a one man entertainment program in 1973.
Perhaps, this is why it could only be Elvis – because being made happy and entertained for just a short time, is the only thing we complex and diverse humans can agree to.
Which is why I think that perhaps the reason that Elvis isn’t considered an artist who made major social change – revolutionary social change no less – is because he was Southern – and not the ideal sort of educated, obviously left leaning and non-religious – as other entertainers who are deemed artists present themselves.
Elvis was a shy humble country boy who never forgot his roots or what it was like to go without. Which is why Elvis not only paid the highest amount of personal taxes of any American, but that his philosophy of money was that it was only good when used as manure – spread around to do the most good.
Elvis as a Southern Charismatic Pentacostal, he believed in speaking in tongues and laying on hands healing. But he was not a religious simpleton – he was savvy enough to avoid the Scientiologists, and he made a private study of world religions.
In the 1950’s he tore down the musical barrier between the white and black halves of the nation and in the 1970’s, he celebrated multiculturalism – never limiting himself to any genre of music, Elvis sang anyone and everyone.
Elvis even covered Aussie hitmaker Olivia Newton-John’s country hits “If You Love Me Let me Know” and others when the country music industry was creating an American country music awards show just to prevent non-Americans from country stardom, as if you can’t sing country if you weren’t born to it.
In his stage wear, Elvis drew from Chinese, Aztec and Middle Eastern philosophies, donned karate inspired jumpsuits with Chinese dragons, Indian Tigers, Aztec sundials and all manner of viral and vibrant imagery from cultures across the globe and history.
Elvis was not the American Dream, Elvis was the Human Dream – to rise on talent and tenacity alone – to become The King.
Elvis continues to be discounted as an artist because of the very versatility and un-pin-down-ableness of his appeal – Elvis can mean anything to anyone – that’s the strength of him for individuals and the weakness of him for the masses.
Alpha, Elvis, Omega