God is not a creator or a force in the universe, it is merely the authority that a person appeals to in order to force their moral distinctions onto another person and society, rather than leaving everyone to determine and manage their own or collective moral code.
It’s curious to me why Elvis was never and largely continues to not be taken seriously as an artist.
The bizarre current day argument that singers who don’t also write songs are somehow lesser than other singers is very strange. We don’t expect opera singers to write the operas and we don’t expect actors to write the screenplays. Most singers do not write songs or at least, not the majority of the songs they perform.
They are simply two difference skills. Certainly, there’s been plenty of songwriters who later became singers – and to my ear, many should have remained in the writing arena.
At first, the attitude that Elvis – and pretty much all the 50’s rock n roll performers – weren’t artists is because their audience was largely teenaged girls. Certainly nothing of importance to teenage girls is going to be deemed art.
What was threatening about Elvis was not just the sexual jolt of awakening a public sexuality in teen girls, because Elvis wasn’t the boy you wanted your daughter to bring home for more than his blatant sexual appeal. He was rural poor, Southern and as threatening to middle class white northern parents as their daughter bringing home an African American.
Middle class uptight white America saw Elvis as no different than a black man – and neither did Elvis – but for far more different reasons and not at all negatively.
Elvis did not have a sense of class difference in terms of ethnicity because in the environment that he grew up in – there wasn’t a distinction between the two groups – both were dirt poor, plain and simple. No better or worse off than the other.
So, while Elvis certainly has the street cred for being an artist by background and the unique performance style, I think that the the 50’s rock n roll is largely discounted as artistic because for the most part, the music was an expression of pent up emotions and teenaged angst – sex, first love, lost love, partying – everything that teenagers most care about.
Rock n roll was was a jubilant burst of emotions that got everyone moving. These base emotions are just not the basis for art and the implication of intentional thought or messages behind the works.
But the apparently shallowness of the lyrics was critical to the underlying message of the synthesis of Rhythm and Blues with Western Bop – aka Rockabilly and ultimately Rock n Roll.
the civil rights movement of the 60’s, with the politizing influence of folk music tempering rock n roll into protest songs and an expression of the anger, fear and rebellion was built on the 50’s rock n roll exuberance.
Part of why 50’s rock is discounted as artisitc, is because it change society so much that we can no longer imagine how restricted the gender roles were or that teenagers as a powerful marketing group occured in the 1950;s.
The 60’s movies make more sense if we consider that EP wanted to belong to the establishment. The Presley film vehicle was what the studio wanted to make money and it was what Parker wanted to consolidate “his boy” as the highest paid entertainer.
Elvis achieved what he thought he wanted – the acceptance and approval – but, as most movies show, getting what you want is often exactly what we do not need.
Elvis, through the mid and later 60’s movies, had the establish acceptance he wanted – but the price of his artistic integrity was too high a price to pay.
The final films that broke with the Presley musical comedy romantic travelog –Change of Habit; Stay Away, Joe; and The Trouble with Girls (and How to Get into It) and the aptly named Easy Come, Easy Go; – were too little too late. Elvis’ movie career was at a close and Elvis’ family life was changing. Married with a child. Elvis was establishment.
The movies over for the foreseeable future, Parker had to put Elvis in front of audiences again or admit he had run Elvis’ career into the ground. Parker arranged for a television special – a one man show – unique in and of itself for the time. Television; having launched Elvis to the national stage in 1956, was either going to re-launch Elvis or be the full circle book end to his career in 1968.
Elvis had listened to Parker for nearly a decade of films and had transformed from the 1950’s rocker image to a wholesome family entertainer. While it made him wildly rich and mainstream; the movies and being part of the establishment didn’t make Elvis happy.
Largely because I don’t think that being part of the establishment was really specifically defined. Elvis, churning out movies to make huge money for the studio to make artistic films is acceptance by the establishment – because it is what establishment requires from you that defines your role – not you and your needs.
Putting your own interests – whatever they may be – ahead of everyone else’s isn’t being part of the establishment.
Elvis finally took a stand and became the rebel that he was always cast as when he sided with Steve Binder for the 68 special; rejecting Parker’s walk on, sing Christmas songs and walk off. Instead, we have an innovative program with musical numbers that are each individual productions (aks music videos) but that also connect to tell a larger story (a rock opera), the personal unplugged sit down portion and the electric stand up karoke portion and ending with Evangelical Elvis signing directly about social harmony – If I Can Dream.
Elvis effortlessly exploded nationally on television in 1956 on the Dorsey Brothers Stage show, in glorious live black and white while merging the black and white cultures in one song delivered with a religiously fervored sexuality and The King returned in an riot of colour, leather and sweat, wringing everything from his soul to earn back that national and even global acclaim.
Elvis was now a rebel – and he was embraced as such. In the 50’s Elvis appeared to be a rebel, but his army stint and the 60’s movies confirmed Elvis was in fact, establishment.
It took Elvis a long time to understand, if he ever did consciously, that being establishment came at too high a cost and was fairly bland and uninspired. In 1968, the rebel Elvis was truly born.
Elvis returned to live performances in 1969 – a major cultural event that is largely forgotten when the summer of 69 is remembered. Woodstock dominates, despite being the last hurrah of the 60’s counter culture.
The 50’s rock n roll explosion ended with Elvis being drafted, Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochrane and the promising Ritchie Valens dead. Little Richard went religious, Chuck Berry was beginning his legal battles. Jerry Lee Lewis personal life being the undoing of his professional one. It left a vacuum that was filled with the androgenous teen idols – Bobby Darin, Fabian, Pat Boone.
The 60’s counter culture ended with the deaths of Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Hendrix. The bitter battle between the more folkier groups like Peter, Paul and Mary and the more drug directed Mamas and the Papas.
The 50’s was a celebration of the end of self repression, the 60’s was a search for deeper meaning and truth, leaving the 70’s wide open for a backlash – disco – sound with fury and signifying nothing.
We have a tenancy to think that how things are now, is pretty much how they have always been, with only fashions and our tech toys changing.
But, it’s not. I came out as a lesbian in 1992 – and that that time, it was legal to be denied employment or promotions, housing and even retail services that any other member of the public could take advantage of.
My partner placed an order for a balloon bouquet and the order was proceeding nicely until she told hem what to write on the card – and when the clerk saw it the balloons were being sent from one woman to another, they refused to accept the order at all. We had no recourse and this was still so commonplace, that it wouldn’t even rate a letter to the editor.
But, in the mid 1990’s gays legally were able to serve in the Canadian military, by the late 1990’s gays and lesbians were legally protected from discrimination in housing and employment in 2000, gays and lesbians could be legally deemed common law married and in 2003, we were able to actually get married.
So, it becomes understandable when ethnicity discrimination is far less a public given when we can all drink from the same water fountains, attend the same schools and sit at the same lunch counters – that the changes wrought by the 50’s fusion of country and blues into rock n roll – are just part of the background social hum.
Funny that religions all promote and worship the hierarchy of authority – specifically their own authority.
But, if they actually obeyed “authority,” there not only wouldn’t be so many religions; but, more importantly, so many different versions of the same religion.
Looking just at Christianity, the Catholic Church is the oldest still active version of xtianity.
So all the other versions, no matter how fundamental – have broken the most important rule – in letter and spirit (holy or otherwise) – to obey all levels of Authority by breaking away and forming their own new subgroup that doesn’t recognize the original authority they previously worshiped.
Once you break that rule, why cling so hard to the intolerance that fundie religions promote and demand worship of the authority of the new break away sect?
More than that, how can you break away from Authority, and the create your own authority structure that you insist is the “true” one that must be obeyed unquestioningly.
I’ve recently read a couple of books that focus on Elvis’ army days – and I’ve really had my thoughts that the army was a bad thing for him changed. I am not inclined to think it was a good personal move, mixed for the career and still bad for the drug use.
Reading these books, Elvis seemed to really thrive there: he’d always wanted to be included, but his shyness and appearance always made him separate, even before the fame.
Elvis went from trying to make enough money singing to support his parents to being the most famous or infamous celebrity around. He was unprecedented and pretty much, no other celebrity has caught up to him for frenzy and staying power.
Rudolph Valentino – the first headline of The King is Dead – without needing a name for the public to know who was being talked about – caused a massive public outpouring of grief and people lining the train rails as his body was transported. But, 30+ years after his death – he was largely remembered by film buffs and a vague public recollection of him in sheik movies – the desert lover.
The army provided Elvis a haven to get away somewhat from the frenzy, a chance to reinvent himself.
I think that the worst thing the army did was make Elvis more likely to obey authority, which lead him to abandoning his responsiblity for his career and leaving it to Parker who was into money, not art.
Parker was a brilliant promoter, but competent manager, he was not. He locked Elvis into long term contracts that locked Elvis into ruts of movies or concerts – without considering that variety was needed to keep Elvis interested, challenged and creative.
Parker was in charge of the business, and theoretically, Elvis was in charge of the creative side – but too often, the creative side was second to the business of making money.
Parker seems to have thought of himself as a long term thinker – he liked the army time to put Elvis back in his place because Elvis was getting too big and very fast – but more than tha, Parker saw that the army, and doing regular service would make Elvis acceptable to a larger audience and be a more lasting artist than a teen idol.
And the problem with that, is that it’s not just the image or perception that creates longevity, but the quality of the products and art put out there.
If Elvis had continued with movies like Flaming Star, Follow That Dream and even Wild in the Country – he might be thought of today as a decent actor instead of the parody of one. It doesn’t matter that Elvis was the first actor to get a box office share, that he was lead in all but one of his movies and no Elvis movie ever lost money – those were important to business, but not to artistic output and integrity.
I have always thought that the army had been bad for him in terms of the drugs but more recent evidence suggests it was his Mom who started him on her diet pills – speed. Galdy was taking the pills to try to slim down because she wanted to be pretty for Elvis and publicity.
Speed was a diet pill until well into the late 60’s, so coming from a doctor, they must be okay. The army and doctors over his life just reinforced that the drugs were okay because they were more authority figures.
Sadly, the military still today issues drugs to personnel – remember the US pilot who dropped a bomb on Canadian soldiers? So called “Go pills”.
Given to Elvis in the 50’s and still given to soldiers today.
The the one thing the army did was make him from a teen idol into a respectable performer more tolerable to a mainstream audience. And that did ensure a lasting power for Elvis, but sadly, the mainstream tends to the middle of the road entertainments – so while it was artist longevity, it also meant artistic death.
If he hadn’t been drafted or done the entertainment route as others did without penalty before him – Elvis would have been penalized for it – he’d probably faded out and been a nostalgia act during his life and not done the 68 special or concert comeback.
And isn’t it funny that many Hollywood actors during WWII were able to join up and do troop entertainment or selling war bonds during war time, but Elvis would have paid a heavy price for doing entertainment duty during a time when war wasn’t happening, but could have started again?
In a way, it was no wonder that Elvis took drugs to escape – the regular rules of society stopped applying to him but the celebrity rules also didn’t apply to him.
Elvis couldn’t complain or vent about anything, not to other soldiers, not to other actors or celebs, could be seen to lose too much control at home.
Funny to think that the temper tantrums and contract demands that celebs get away with as a matter of course now – and Elvis rarely failed to show up on set, he always new his lines and was personable to cast and crew, his only contract demand for concert tours was a case of a particular brand of water in the dressing room – but concerts in the last years were ended because of drug related health problems – he still managed to do over 1000 concerts between 1969 and 1977 – he packed more shows in those 8 years than most performers do over a 20 year career.
It’s a wonder that he didn’t explode.