Saturday, August 15, 2009

Elvis Death Anniversary

I know I don't talk about Elvis much on here (actually come to think of it, I don't think I ever have... oops. My grandmother would disown me if she knew!), but today I am.

Today marks the 32nd anniversary of his death. Nobody can give Elvis enough credit. He is the King of Rock & Roll. He was a great talent that was lost too soon. If you actually look into his journey, he made an incredible mark on music.

I remember this past fall semester when I took History of Rock and Roll, the day we talked about Elvis we watched some footage of his last live performance. The teaching assistant put on this video and stood facing us (in a huge lecture hall filled with 350 people) and she just started bawling:

At the time, I thought "Jeez, this girl is crazy. Why is she crying? This happened such a long time ago and she wasn't even alive."

Well, now I bite my tongue because I watched this late last night:

And guess what? I cried. I don't know why, but I did.

Maybe a few of you guys were old enough to remember his death -- if so, how did you find out and where were you?
Today I encourage you to remember Elvis. Break out that silly Blue Hawaii movie or just randomly search Youtube for some classic live footage.


Sean Coleman said...

I truly think that the man had an exceptional voice and was a great performer. For inspiring John and Paul (and a host of other great artists that came after) he certainly deserves respect.

I just don't see him as being as important as Chuck Berry in the final analysis, as he wasn't a song writer. His most visceral and cutting edge material was done when he recorded all of those magic songs with Sam Phillips. Again, his interpretive skills were fine, though he didn't write a note of this music.

Elvis passed two days after my ninth birthday. We had a two record set of his hits that my sister played quite a bit. I remember reading about it at the time, but it didn't have any particular impact on me. Only much later would I have a grasp on his contributions to pop culture.

rock and roll history said...

That final concert footage is a real heartbreaker.

carolina said...

I was in college when Elvis died. We were shocked and saddened to hear about it. My older sister was more affected by it -- she had seen him in concert years earlier at the Houston Livestock Show in the Astrodome and had followed his career.
Just seemed like a tragic, sad way to go.

Perplexio said...

I always felt Elvis was a bit overrated in that he didn't write much of his own material. He had a good voice, but some of his contemporaries who didn't get the credit he did actually did write their own material.

Unfortunately, many of his contemporaries died in their primes depriving the world of some truly tremendous music-- Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens on the day the music died back in 1959 and then Eddie Cochran about a year later when his limo crashed on the way back to the airport for his return to the United States. And unlike Elvis, Cochran wrote much of his own material.

classicrockforthesoul said...

@ Sean - Great points. He loses points with me as well because of the fact that he wasn't a songwriter.

@ R&R History - I can now look at his final performance and "get it" - it makes me really sad.

@ Carolina - I bet you wish you went with your sister - that's an amazing thing to be able to brag about for the rest of your life... that you got to see Elvis LIVE!

@ Perplexio - Very true - lots of legends died young and tragically. Like I said, Elvis loses points with me for not writing songs.

Whizkid said...

Yes, Elvis didn't "write" nearly all of his songs (although he did actually write one or two, plus several gospel songs), but he took many other people's songs and---with his own change of a word or two of the lyrics and his own change of the musical arrangement---made them into something special. The same can be said of Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, and most of the other well-known singer-entertainers of that era.

I think the fact that he was not a songwriter takes absolutely nothing away from his importance as a cultural and musical influence and icon. As for Chuck Berry, he was at least a great LYRICIST, but I think the popular wisdom is that his piano player Johnnie Johnson wrote almost all the music for his songs. In my mind though, that takes nothing away from Chuck Berry...after all, do we think anything less of Elton John because he writes no words, or Mick Jagger because he writes no music?

To me, the bottom line is I don't judge the artist by whether they just sing the song or if they also write the words and music, play the instruments, mix the tracks, and produce the record.

In fact, one of the things I find immensely fascinating and entertaining about the music industry is how different artists interpret the same lyrics and music.

classicrockforthesoul said...

@ Whizkid - Very nice! I enjoyed reading your comment :)

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