What being a Naturalist means to me

I tell people that I am an atheist to all religion.

With some respect due to Pascal the man, but none due at all to his wager – which he came up with to make himself feel better about becoming religious and his wager does not reflect any of his former mathematical or intellectually integrity – because Pascal was at first, a gambler and a mathematician second – and religious last – and it was in this final end of sad tragic days – that he came up with the infamous wager which is only compelling to people who think that the God Pascal worshipped was the same god that they worship.

Because it’s a false thing to say that either there’s a god or there’s not – and assume that there is only one god possible, given the plethora of equally credible gods and goddesses and non-human dieties and demi-beings that have been just as passionately worshipped as any modern version of ancient tribal gods.

I mean really, I have to ask – why do people not understand that the only difference between a cult and a religion – is how long the cult has been around and whether it attracted over time, enough followers to promote said cult to the status of a modern mainstream religion.

So in the modern day – a small group with a new belief is a cult that hasn’t been around long enough to turn professional and become a religion.

Now, the problem with cult/religion is that they are all about humans. What humans wrote down, how they decided people should be and how people should behave – and worse – what was written down was a reflection of the society at the time of the original writing.

So the early Christians were not one cohesive group, but a number of groups each following a different alleged disciple but certainly a cult leader under their own “Disciple” name brand.

To put that in modern terms – exactly how Elvis fans are divided between the various personalities that make up Elvis’ Memphis Mafia group – maybe hating Red and Sony West – the cousins behind The Bodyguard Book – or maybe liking Joe Esposito and Jerry Schilling and Marty Lacker for being employable guys outside of Elvisworld who seemed less like hangers on than others and who then tried to do their best under difficult conditions or liking Marty Lacker for his online Elvisworld participation or supporting Elvis’ cousin Billy Smith but Lamar Fike disliker or who/what – ever.

Aside: If you read only the books written by the Memphis Mafia guys, it’s not hard to figure out what kind of fun Elvis had playing these guys against each other – because you have to consider that anything they said about Elvis being less than honorable, went double for them – because Elvis was their leader and they all obeyed or they were simply no longer invited. It astonishes me when people “tell all” that they never realize what “all” that they are revealing by what they don’t tell.

Each of the men who wrote the texts that were later edited together to form one comprehensive approved cannon – known specifically as “the Bible” (trivia: this formerly most printed book worldwide has been out-printed worldwide by the Ikea Catalog, which to my mind is the most lesbian pornpgraphic magazine in the whole world) – and leaving out the text that did not serve the agenda of the committee who decided what was cannon and what was fodder, or later committees who revised the material for social, political and scientific updates.

For example – the Greeks loved geometry and the Romans loved engineering and had no other use for math but they loved to conquer people – so they subjugated a lot of nations – peoples – and they demanded tribute from the leaders of their new subjects ….

No one had invented statistics and math was only used by the Romans for Public Works Engineering projects and inventory of tribute arriving from conquered peoples.

So, Mary and Joesph couldn’t have gone to Bethlehem for a Roman Census – because King Herod had already died before the year designated 0001 AD, had been only consumed with killing off blood family rivals and why the population didn’t like him being propped up by the Roman Empire so could never have gotten away with slaughtering peasant babies, and none of the secular documentation – the massive amount of secular documentation of this extremely well documented era of history –

I mean, if you think that the Liz Taylor-Richard Burton dumping Eddie Fisher who had dumped poor Debbie Reynolds scandal was huge – or in modern terms – Jennifer-Brad-Angelina or whatever current so called reality show bimbo is on the tabloids this week was socially significant.

Cleopatra marrying Julius Caesar in Egypt then showing up in Rome with an illegitimate son while Caesar’s barren wife had stood by him for decades and he puts up a statue of Venus that looks like Cleo……

Then Cleo blows town, Julius is killed just as he’s crowned emperor of Rome, who needs no kings, being a republic that falls into factional disarray – and Cleo doesn’t support Julius legal heir – Octavian, a slip of a boy, barely a man – and instead – throws herself at Marc Anthony – another married Roman General and married him and has more illegitimate children and funds a Roman Civil War….

So Romans, being Roman, supported Caesar’s legal heir – Octavian, now styling as Augustus Caesar – because it didn’t matter how hot Cleo was – she was the last pharaoh of Egypt that Julius had propped up as an independent state instead of as the conquered province that Romans wanted it to be.

So there’s a lot of sex scandals in history to make movies about – and the lives of celebrities now are pale imitations to the political sexual scandals that underwrite the history that we make movies and tell stories about.

– so King Herod – a minor player in the Cleo-Caesar-Antony vs Caesar Saga – he never counted his citizens for the hated Romans, any killing babies was strictly kept in the Royal Extended Family and counting done under Herod was for inventory of the tribute that he sent to Rome, a thank you for making him King of the Jews while Rome was abuzz over Egypt – in the person of Cleopatra.

Rome counting how many peoples they subjugated and expressed the wealth of the peoples subjugated by the amount of treasure and slaves – they did not care how many people each subjugated peoples were compromised of.

More than that – the mathematics needed to conduct a population census hadn’t been invented yet. The first known national census was done in England for William the Conqueror – and he only had acres and livestock counted.

Because that’s what the king owned – the land and the resources – the first census was to count the treasury inventory – not peasants. Peasants came with the land they they were permitted to squat on.

But the idea of a census of peasants followed the development of the mathematical theory and techniques – so once we had a new shiny tool – we had to use it.

And the need to count and quantify people came with government as a civil service – because once taxes were budgeted for social infrastructure – military, public works, roadways, and we had a need to account for migration and population, when taxes were no longer the treasury and private domain of the king – but became the means by which the government created physical or social infrastructure – and peasants began to attain person-hood under the law – than you William the Conqueror and the 1066 establishment of a code of law which set out social rights and responsibilities and personal freedoms – when peasants were no longer subjected to the will of the king or the nobility.

Basically – once there was a middle class below the nobility but above the peasants – and it’s money that determines which socioeconomic class you are in – well, peasants paid taxes to be left alone, the middle class pays taxes in exchange for government services.

With this new social arrangement – the mathematics of accounting, budgeting, statistical data collection and statistical analysis of data – that was all invented after William the Conqueror but before King James and his bible 2.0.

And it’s bible 2.0 that all modern American bible versions – and I have no idea what number they are up to – but the Mormons added a whole new testament for Bible version 2. 1.0.

So by the time the King James bible was being revised – the stories updated for the then modern sensibility – the crafters of the bible needed to make the 17th century population relate to the old stories that took place in entirely different social and political times – and they took the basic story and updated the emotional values of the story by adding modern grievances to universal stories of peasants subjected to the whims of the king.

Must have been nostalgic for King James – who knew he was more figurehead than king compared to the kings of old who didn’t have parliaments or political parties or social/political movements supporting political parties to deal with.

Submitting to a government census was by the time of the 17th century, a socially understood concept and people quite rightly bristle at the government collecting massive data without a clear purpose as to the why and what and how come they are entitled/demanding said data.


Sorry, stream of consciousness tangent.

So I am an atheist to the Monotheistic Abrahamic Trilogy Religion – and to Pantheon religions who posit a multitude of deities and demi-beings, because – again, the intellectually and mathematically honest Pascal would have smacked religious Pascal’s wager right out the window and onto the manure pile where it belongs.

The probability of there being a single god is as close to zero as it’s mathematically possible to get – however, it’s true – as long as the probabiliy isn’t actually zero – then, there is a chance that there might be a god.

But which god, there’s 7 billion people on earth now and population statistics estimate that there’s been about 104 billion humans over the course of all of human history – so combined with how many more humans will be born – that means that there’s a one in (7 billion  + 104 billion + X more humans) chance that you are the one person who’s won the god-lottery and picked the right god.

And I don’t know about anyone reading, but given the odds – Practically Zero and then the 1 in (110 billion plus X) chance of worshipping the right god – given the plethora of all possible known currently gods –

I think not worshipping any one is a lot safer – because at least, when you die and there turns out to be one – it would probably not be as forgiving to those who worshipped a false/competitor god than someone who said – well, I would have worshipped you, but I didn’t get a clear memo that you were the go to god.

So, at least – hey, I didn’t obey a bunch of rules written by humans and instead – I made sure that my carbon footprint was small and that I left everyone and every place that I went to in a better condition or as good a condition – as when I encountered it.

Because – I don’t understand people who assert that following the revealed true word of god is more important than being a caretaker for said god’s creation – the Earth and all the creatures and people on it.

But, I am not religious, I don’t beleive that there is anything like the gods created by religions.

I am a naturalist – the study of nature is science and the practice of nature is something that can’t be quantified with science but occurs in harmony with nature.

Buddhism, Taoism, Shinto and other eastern philosophies that revere nature in all it’s forces – whatever the source of the forces – it’s all nature – all the way down

Elvis and multiculturalism

I am involved in a discussion on TCB World that I really want to share – partly for the insights, but more to show that the complexity of Elvis fan thought is far more interesting than aliver or love child debates, or fighting over which were the real friends and which were the hangers on within the Memphis Mafia, Priscilla hating and whatever else it is that people think we get into. Or that so many fans do.

“vivaElvis” wrote:

Have you ever noticed that for a time when race and ethnics was a major separation in the US in the 60’s and the Civil Rights Movement was underway that many of Elvis’ movies have a multi-cultural cast? I was watching Stay Away Joe the other night with the family and noticed that most of the cast is native American. Then watched Paradise Hawaiian Style and saw that some of his leading ladies in the movie were of other nationalities. There’s also the movie Charro with Ina Balin who is Jewish, Fun In Acapulco with Ursala Andres who is Swiss, It Happened At The World’s Fair with the little Chinese girl (can’t recall her name), Girls! Girls! Girls! with the other two Chinese sisters, and Change Of Habit with Barara McNair who was African American. There might be more, but those are the ones off the top of my head.

There’s also other movies that feature African Americans in the casting such as King Creole, Wild In The Country, Roustabout, Viva Las Vegas, Frankie And Johnny, and The Trouble With Girls.

That is impressive considering that most Hollywood directors were scared to even cast blacks in their movies due to a racial society at the time. Indians were not given much respect then either. Just another way to prove that Elvis was no bigot or racist.

Rickb writes:

Interesting point but mostly those of other nationalities were in minor roles, unless the native American or Mexican heritage (Fun in Acapulco, Stay Away Joe) were the setting. I don’t think `Joe’ could be classed as a breakthrough film in depiction of native Americans. Films like In The Heat of the Night and Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner through this era made much more important advances

“Raised on Rock” writes:

Elvis Presley was for sure and this is well documented a guy that was clearly against any kind of racial/cultural discrimination and who saw all human beings as equal, he dated and befriended people whatever their color, or cultural background. His attitude about those issues does says a lot about him, but his attitude is mostly relfected in his personal life and music (mostly in his 50’s music right?). Not in films, as he had basically nothing to do in the roles he played after Blue Hawaii.

Sure he might had kissed a mexican girl in Fun in Acapulco, and was not at all an issue for him but just natural, while many other stars at the time (or even today) might simply refuse to that. So sure, every time he appered kissing the “international” girl does say something about our man, I will agree with you on that, but the movies itself, were not at all seen then as a multicultural statement but just: american star kisses the exotic girl, (that basically Girls Girls Girls)and the reason movies like Fun in Acapulco and Girls Girls Girls where done, and the (slight) multicultural suporting cast in some other films was merely a comercial strategy to sell Elvis movies outside the USA and bring somekind of exotic feel for the domestic audiences. (Well sure for the ultra racist audiences, that was to much, but I don’t think those people even care about Elvis and his “jungle music”).

Flaming Star was one that directly made a point on those issues, “The movie which focused on the complications of a bi-racial family was banned in South Africa due to the strict laws of racial separation there. Elvis was honored by a tribal council for his positive portrayal of a Native American”, so yeah sure, its not like Im saying you are wrong. But to extend that just because some none white american appeared in some second hand role on the rest of Elvis movie was some kind of statement is going a little to far.

Change of Habit as I said is another one that might be considered an statement on that. Not Stay Away Joe, as it actually recieved bad critics on that matter as it was another movie that depicted native americans as irresponsable drunks (although I´m sure if they had respected the original script which was very close to the original novel, a way diffrent movie for Elvis would have resulted, but the original intention was lost in the final product).

Me, as Monk37 writes:

even if you look at the 68 special, the audience is multi-cultural

I don’t think it’s an accident that the cast of Elvis movies were diverse – I mean – the little girl in Seattle’s World fair was Asian – and the theme of the world fair – and the movie by extension – was bringing people together through technology.

Elvis broke down racial barriers – and when he went to hollywood – Hollywood could see the opportunity for Elvis to continue promoting racial harmony – because Elvis was pretty much, the first and last entertainer that most of us could agree on, regarldess of what social subgroups we belonged to.

Even his 70’s stage wear drew images from cultures through history and time

I disagree though, the writers and producers of movies do have a social agenda – they want to change the world with entertainment nudging people, not lecturing or pushing

so showing Elvis, the man every woman wanted kissing all kinds of women from all cultures – it was to show that love is universal and that it transcends the natural variation within our species.

Having Elvis’s character interacting with and treating people as equal – at a time when there was segregation – was a political and artistic statement meant for people to see each other the same way.

That multiculturalism in Elvis movies was not common at the time – and frankly, still isn’t today.

Raised on Rock writes:

The multicultural influence on Elvis jumpsuits from the 70’s it is also a good point for sure. And of course the cultural impact he made back in the 50’s and early 60’s was not just about youth culture but pretty much about racial integration. Definetively when we talk about how Elvis change our world view, multicultural issues are included.

Sure Elvis earlier musicals up to Girl Happy (the golden hollywood era for Elvis) wanted to deliver an “Elvis for Everyone” point of view, and even in its most naive, for sure make a point that there where not cultural restrictions in Elvis public, and as I said earlier, the fact that for Elvis, to kiss and huge any co-star despite cultural back ground was not an issue at all, (as it might have been for other stars that could have simply refused) makes clear that for Elvis there was no such concepts as race and related status in his mind.

Sure, Elvis was an integrator I wouldn’t deny that, as Lester Bangs put it: “If love is truly going out of fashion forever, which I do not believe, then along with our nurtured indifference to each other will be an even more contemptuous indifference to each others’ objects of reverence… We will continue to fragment in this manner, because solipsism holds all the cards at present… But I can guarantee you one thing: we will never again agree on anything as we agreed on Elvis. So I won’t bother saying good-bye to his corpse. I will say good-bye to you.”

So YES, Elvis Presley bringed us all together in a way few or maybe non artist/musicians/entretainers ever had, but it was Elvis, not the movies, that is to say, while the earlier musicals, from Blue Hawaii up until Viva las Vegas or Girl Happy, where still portraing what Elvis was or represented to his fans, for sure those movies, even in its most lame forms, where still testimony of that large cultural integration he embodied. But again, lets underline this: it was because of what Elvis was, not because any hollywood or writers agenda, (Flaming Star being the only exception), they where merely trying to make a whole lotta cash on what Elvis meant for us all, so a multicultural show case had to be included in the Elvis showcase, but that was that, the only agenda was comercial issues, not social, until they became mere exploitation.

After ’65, you can’t be serious to state Harum Scarum was aiming to change the world by its multicultural showcase. After ’65 the Elvis movies became a grotesque caricature of a once magic formula, and while they continue to show a multicultural cast, you can hardly think they where still making any impact in that area beyong what Elvis might still have meaned to a few, while to most, Elvis now meant zero. At the very center of all the racial and social issues of the mid 60’s, Elvis movies where a bad joke, although ironically, Elvis himself, the revolution he embodied back in the 50’s, had a lot to do in the social awarness of the young people making the real artistic-social statments in the 60’s.

The ’68 comback special was another chapter in the story, and the multi-cultural audience stuff, like the asian girl sitting beside Elvis while he sings Memories, that at the height of the Vietnam war, do was as much as an open statement as it was If I Can Dream. Director Steve Binder was well known for doing stuff like that on previous TV Specials and shows he directed. Finally Elvis was able to express his true feelings about what was going on socially, something that THE MOVIES, didn’t let him for almost a decade.

Monk37 writes:

I have training as a screenwriter and am currently developing a tv show project – which needs a “-verse” to exist in.

So like fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, refer to the Buffyverse – the world created by Joss Whedon that Buffy inhabits – so I am bringing that analysis to Elvis.

I don’t know that many people created a verse and then told stories within whatever that verse was – and it’s true – most who worked with Elvis viewed him as money machine – so I am not saying that there was a consistent thought

but I think that enough people in the film industry had elements of the Verse concept and they bring it through their department’s work – be it set decorating to scripts to blocking shots – it’s all non-directed process but a storytelling process nonetheless.

I am applying an Elvisverse overlay to all his movies – and see how they hold up – and they do.

His movies took place in the Elvis-verse – exotic locations and the worst problems are solved with karate and you get the girl the end – or marry her off.

Elvis’s characters had exotic jobs for the time period – never an office job – always one where you set your own hours, made your own sort of rules for behaviours, but in the end, was a decent, hardworking, compassionate person.

So Elvis movies, were about how to be in the world – the hardworking, doing what you love and living life to the fullest.

Elvis played a variety of racing vehicle roles – racers, pilots, adventurers – all of which are possible to become in this day and age – if you want to record music, you can do it, post it online and develop a following. Same for writing.

In the Elvis-verse, or Elverse – the problems were many but surmountable, with the right song, or enough charm/luck you make or a swift karate chop and the endings were varied, but happy for the most part.

Parker didn’t understand the artistry of Elvis – but he understood the appeal.

Elvis lets us put aside our cares and worries and be pure joy, celebration of human potential with diversity acceptance and tolerance as the norm, creativity and sexual goodness. For the runtime of a recorded concert or a movie – as Elvis said, no message, just pure entertainment.

Forget your troubles, c’mon get Elvis.

Raised on Rock writes:

What a fantastic post! and now I see where are you coming.

Yes I agree with 100%

I’ve always believe strongly that if the Elvis formula musicals would have ended in ’64, either for switching to dramatic roles or simply to finish with hollywood as he did in ’69, those golden era movies like Viva las Vegas, Blue Hawaii, Girls Girls Girls, or Fun in Acapulco, would no te be so underrated and bashed as they are today, and the critics will get the value of them and why they where so incredible succesful. Much to do with what you greatly expressed!

As you said, Parker, and I will add Hal Wallis to the equation, only understood the appeal but not the artistry (you really got it there), so by ’64, it was just image but no substance, as substance was Elvis past artistry, but as the Elvis formula movies, what a money making machine they where, became more and more identical from each other (and with cheaper budgets and plots), they became a cage for Elvis that prevented him to keep developing his artistry.

From 1957 to 1961, the movies showcase where Elvis was at the moment (that was in a way their succesful plot), by 1965, because of the formula trap that prevented him from being real, Elvis was nowhere, so the source of the magic was gonne (the movies lost the plot as Elvis artistic carreer looses the plot), and so, the movies became an empty image, and the appeal of them was gonne. That to me was the logic behind the failure of the once magic formula.

Mr. Wallis was cynical when in ’66 stated that he was getting out of the Elvis bussiness cause it was obvious times had changed and Elvis not, as he was mostly to blame to immobilize Elvis in the formula musicals, betraying a promise to Elvis that those where just a step that will lead to other kind of roles (the ones that Elvis wanted) by diminishing the glories of Blue Hawaii to mere cheap exploitation, using the money he made with Elvis to finance other more artistic movie projects, the once that Elvis should have been recieving by ’64.

Once in that hole, at the same time Wallis walked out, seems that Parker practicality was to keep milking the cow until it dies, rather that looking for a way out to that dead end road.


Yes, you got it exactly.

and I think your assessment of when his movies were lifted from his life – like Loving You being a mild version of his own story or GI Bules being a version of his army time – they were charming and entertaining

but when they were just crap stories that anyone could have been in, Harum Scarum, Trouble with Girls, then they fell flat because they ignored the Elverse and were just about Elvis the Automatic Teller Machine.

Elvis’ cultural impact

Elvis’ impact was far greater than merely music. I’d go so far to say that it was his fourth most important impact.

Elvis and BB King

1. Racial barriers

Elvis broke racial barriers by merging the rigidly defined musical genres of the time  – his Sun records were r&b songs recorded as country and country songs recorded as r&b. The first “title” he was given was Hillbilly Cat and King of Western Bop.

Interestingly, when Elvis was first touring in 1954 and 55 – before the Colonel came along – Elvis played the country music circuit on the showbill with country performers.  There wasn’t controversy about his wild act or different music – so funnily enough, it wasn’t Southern prejudice against sexuality and R&B music that became the problem – it was Northern prejudice against not only open sexuality, R&B music but also Southerners.

Elvis came from a social class that didn’t make seeing skin colour as anything significant. After all, you can’t really look down on people when you’re at the same level both looking up and there isn’t anyone below either of you.

There’s so many tales of pre-fame Elvis being at black churches, hanging out around BB King in his pre-fame DJ days, and black clubs, listening to R&B records that his school friends didn’t.

Elvis was painfully aware of his poor Southern social class and he most likely felt closer socially with black people around him – than middle class Southerners and Northerners of any level. Even after he was famous, perhaps especially after. It’s not that hard to realize that these same “upper class” and Northerners were the same ones looking down on you before fame and as you attained it. Elvis the Pelvis indeed.

You only have to watch the Elvis appearance on the Steve Allen show – the discomfort at being put in a tuxedo, singing to a dog, not allowed to move – although that made the performance almost sexier – and the terrible hillbilly skit. It wasn’t that Elvis was a bad actor there, it was that he was so humiliated that he could barely say the lines.

A big part of the prejudice against Elvis was not only that he didn’t sing and perform white – but that he was poor, southern, achieving fame the wrong way (not rising through the Tin Pan Alley route – he came out of the South, not NY or LA) all making the sexual threat even more so – Hillbilly today remains a freely used pejorative after all.

People didn’t (and still don’t) get that he got his performance style honestly – his Mom was known for her sensual dancing as a younger woman, Elvis grew up in a church where the minister played guitar and jumped all around dramatically.

Also, I think you can be in a time and not be of the time.

After all, none of the civil rights advances for any group would have moved through society and through the courts unless a few people had the sensibility to push for change and other people weren’t willing to change until there was critical mass and change happened.

But the desegregation wasn’t not only in his music – watching all of his 1960’s movies it’s surprising to see the ethnic diversity of the various casts – especially given other musical comedy movies of the day – also, the 68 special, if you look at the audience for the leather portions – there’s a huge mix of ethnicities.

50's concert crowd

2 Elvis changed public morals and sex

Before Elvis, performers didn’t move around much and audiences were behaved. Yes, the bobby-soxers of the 1940’s swooned over Sinatra – but they didn’t tear at their faces and his clothes. Or jump up on the stage just to be close to him.

Sinatra made you swoon, but Elvis electrified.

And Elvis made everyone talk and think about sex – the more the “grown ups” tried to ban him and not talk about sex, the sexier Elvis got.

copied by many- most famously The Clash


3. Marketing and packaging

Before Elvis, a singer or group put out a 45 single (one song each side) and then after five 45s were out, they’d be collected an album (aka LP or Long Play record) – or maybe a couple of Extended Plays (aka “EPs”) (45s with 4 songs on them).

With Elvis, the standard became a single, a second single, collect them on an EP, then do an album with the EP and some filler tracks – so, you could have the same song on a 45, an EP and an LP.

Elvis showed that there was no end to reselling the same material. He also proved that the artist transcends even the worst of material.

Elvis remains not only the template for how to be a rock star, but how to be a cross over artist into other entertainment media.

Entertainers transcend one area of entertainment; and Elvis was a multiple threat – his singing on the radio, his performances on TV and in Concert, and his movies.

Just a note about his movies – Elvis was the first actor who’s salary included part of the box office. He made 31 movies and 2 concert documentaries. Of the 31 movies, he was the lead role in 30 of them. The movies ranged from Westerns (Love Me Tender, Flaming Star, Charro) to dramas such as Wild in the Country or Change of Habit to comedies like Follow that Dream and the Elvis As Star genre, which was the majority of his 60’s output.

The movies play out this way – if you can see the movie being made with someone else in the title roll – that is the movie can stand on the script with a different cast then it wasn’t an Elvis vehicle. When the purpose of the movie is just to put Elvis in an exotic career in an exotic location and lots of pretty girls to sing to under odd circumstances, then it was an Elvis vehicle.

And hey, how many singers turned actors can lay claim to having their own genre of films?

After all, what is Eminem’s 8 Mile movie than an update of Loving You?


4 The Music

This is one area that is Elvis’ absolutely, and yet many people get hung up on the songwriting as a requirement in some way. It’s not. The vast majority of singers do not write their own songs and the majority of songwriters are not singers.

I disagree that the whole package means writing as well as performing (or playing and dancing); since, we don’t expect actors to write the scripts and direct the movie to be an actor.

Singing is just that – the singing – you don’t have to play an instrument or dance or move at all to sing. Sade was rather successful in the 80’s with her stage gimmick of standing still – it set her apart from the overproduced dance numbers that were typical in the 1980’s.

I also think it’s more impressive to take someone else’s words and make them your own, after all Patsy Cline never wrote a song and no one has replaced her as the Queen of Country or dissed her for it.

Elvis could sing – and not only in a wide range of octaves through the years, but also pretty much any genre of music there was and everything in between.

Elvis’ musical output includes 50’s rock n roll, ballads, R&B, country, 70’s stadium rockers, funk and gospel. He even recorded two protest songs. He is the only singer in three industry Musical Halls of Fame – Rock, Country and Gospel.

Despite being dead for 33 years, new music product formats (CD and downloads), Elvis remains the biggest selling recording artist of all-time worldwide, bar none, and has more record certifications in the U.S.A. than any other musical act, including The Beatles.

This RIAA article lists highest rated artists by decade – and Elvis continues to make the list for decades he was dead and not recording in. Additionally, Elvis’ releases have often not qualified for certification, RIAA rule changes make it difficult to count in addition to record companies accounting creativity – all detailed here. And, of course, Elvis’ two biggest sale years 1956 and 57 were before the RIAA even existed.

When you compare artists from different decades, you also need to account for the media of the day. In the 50’s and early 60’s the 45 single was the main format which gave way in the later 60’s to album. We are sort of coming back to the single with the advent of downloadable single tracks.

One unsung aspect of Elvis’ musical career: while he didn’t write songs, he did have input into the songs through his selections, rewriting some of the lyrics, added things here and there, rhythm patterns, harmonies, musical arrangements, etc.

Most of all, he did arrange and produce most of his recording sessions. He was the man that should have been credited as: music arranged by Elvis Presley as well as THE Producer, on 90% of his albums.

He’s probably also inspired more novelty songs, tribute records, outright impersonations or influenced more artists who followed than anyone else. Because how can one person claim to be inspired by The Beatles, without acknowledging that they were inspired by Elvis?

with fans, 1969

5 The Fans

Elvis fans are like no other fans. The Grateful Dead had the Deadheads who followed them around, Queen had The Royal Family of fans that followed them around.

Elvis played Vegas, where the international fans came to him.

While Elvis had gates on his residences, he often spent time at the gates in the middle of the fans. Even in Germany, he had posted hours when he’d come outside and sign autographs.

Elvis fans not only have no upper limit for buying the same songs over and over, but we also have no bottom limit – we want every single take, in between banter, soundboard recording and any scrap of video or audio no matter the quality of the recording or content.

Most fans are content to play records and watch the movies – others enjoy the Elvis Impersonators – or Tribute Artists – and some insist that he’s never left the building.

A note about the impersonators – Elvis is the most impersonated person in the world. Not only the actual impersonators who perform Elvis tributes- and tens of thousands claim “Elvis impersonator” as their profession on tax forms – but Elvis is referenced or used symbolically in TV shows, Films, Stage Plays/Musicals and even  TV Advertisements.

If you go to the Internet Movie Database and search for Elvis Presley as a character in a show, there’s just over 150 listings. Most of those are someone playing Elvis fictionally involved in the world of the movie or show – not a biography of Elvis. Although, there’s probably been more movies about his life than any other performer.

March of Dimes


There’s a lot that can be said about Elvis – he was different things to different people. He made sex public, challenged the powers that be by being famous the wrong way and for the wrong things, yet, he put his career on hold to legitimately serve in the military and amassed a huge collection of police badges, he ignored the artificial boundaries of musical genres yet ended up being a rigid movie genre of his own, he was known for being generous to strangers with the Cadillac gifts, yet kept most of his charitable donations out of the press, he tried to live his life privately, but often put himself forward for causes such as polio vaccines and the March of Dimes as well as doing many 70’s concerts as fundraisers for cancer foundations or hurricane/tornado disaster relief.

It’s because Elvis is so contradictory, so nuanced, that anything can be projected onto him and his image by anyone.

I’ve always thought that the verse from the Kris Kirstofferson song, The Pilgrim best described Elvis:

He’s a poet, he’s a picker, he’s a prophet, he’s a pusher He’s a pilgrim and a preacher and a problem when he’s stoned He’s a walking contradiction partly truth and partly fiction Taking every wrong direction on his lonely way back home.

Triumph and crucifixion

Elvis is every where,

Elvis is every thing,

Elvis is in everybody,

Elvis is still the king.