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Artist of the Month: Elvis Presley

August 1, 2017

This month, we join the world in celebrating the life and music of Elvis Presley. The King is our Artist of the Month.

Are you lonesome tonight? Got a suspicious mind?  Or do you just want a little less conversation?
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Hold on for one little minute and consider this: just how different would life be now if a 19-year-old truck driver from Memphis hadn’t walked into Sun Studios on July 5, 1954, teamed up with guitarist Scotty Moore and bassist Bill Black and cut a radical new version of Arthur Crudup’s ‘That’s All Right’?

It’s pretty safe to say that rock’n’roll wouldn’t have made the impact that it did, there’d be no Beatles or Rolling Stones and all that followed, and the world we’re living in now would be a blander and more boring place. Not for nothing did John Lennon opine, “Before Elvis, there was nothing.”

Elvis Presley couldn’t have appeared at a better time for teenagers on both sides of the Atlantic. In the United States, he bridged the musical divide that existed between the races as he inadvertently fused country and the blues to soundtrack the teen explosion fuelled by the boom years of the Eisenhower administration.

In the UK, the release of ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ in 1956 signalled the moment post-war austerity Britain made the switch to colour and just before the timely abolition of National Service. This was the sound of freedom delivered in little over than two minutes.

That irresistible voice, uninhibited dancing, and raw and untamed sex appeal proved to be the beacon that teens the world over were looking for; while the boys wanted to be him, the girls just wanted him. Elvis Presley was one of those rare cultural phenomena that seems to tip the axis upon which the world spins.

His move from radio to TV to film was as inevitable as it was swift. And while his draw at the box office remained assured, the focus shifted from his core talent to a lesser one.

But Elvis Presley was smart enough to realise that he’d have to get back to basics in order to move forward. Clad in an iconic leather outfit and doing what he did best, the ’68 Comeback Special (as it came to be known) saw Presley reclaim his crown with his first live performance in seven years as he once again released that special genie from the bottle.

Uninhibited and free, this was Elvis Presley finding himself and his audience once more. The music that followed in the shape of ‘From Elvis In Memphis’ contains some of his strongest and most enduring work and what came after would see Elvis triumph. Elvis Presley not only grew up with his audience, but his audience grew with him as subsequent generations fell under his charms.

It can be all too easy to point to Elvis Presley’s shortcomings; the passing of time can do that to a legend so huge it becomes difficult to see beyond it. But as we mark the 40th anniversary of the passing of this cultural colossus, it’s worth taking stock of his impact on the world.

For all the ersatz rebels and second-rate bad boys, Elvis Presley was the real deal.

This wasn’t studied cool or posing or vocal gymnastics performed as a mask to obscure a lack of talent.

This was a genuinely rich gift of sound and vision that so few artists possess, let alone share with such courage.

Remember Elvis Presley for what he really was: a genuine one-off who changed the world for good.

Video of the Week: Elvis Presley’s ‘My Way’ (Aloha from Hawaii concert, Live in Honolulu)

Video of the Week: Elvis Presley’s ‘My Way’ (Aloha from Hawaii concert, Live in Honolulu)

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