The Life of Elvis Presley - HFP

Elvis Presley- Background Info/Interesting Facts

  • Elvis was born in Tupelo, Mississippi on January 8th, 1935
  • He was an only child because his twin brother, Jesse Garon, was a stillborn
  • Receives his first guitar at the age of 11
  • 1948- Moves to Memphis, Tennessee
  • 1953- Graduates from Humes High School
  • 1954- Elvis walks in and, after the recording of "That's Alright (Mama)", starts recording with Sun Records, a label in Memphis
  • 1955- Contract sold to the label juggernaut RCA Victor
  • After spending 3-or-so years performing, being praised for songs such as "Blue Suede Shoes" and "Hound Dog", he is drafted into the Army in 1958
  • Elvis' mother, Gladys, also dies in 1958
  • Once in the US Army, Elvis is assigned to the Second Armored Division's "Hell on Wheels" unit, stationed in Fort Hood, Texas. This was the division formerly led by General George Patton, famous WWII General.
  • While away in Germany in 1959, Elvis meets Priscilla Beaulieu
  • After being discharged and coming home, Elvis eventually marries Priscilla in 1967
  • 1968- The TV show ELVIS Premieres on NBC, And Elvis' daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, is born
  • 1968-1977- Elvis is recognized for more hit songs- "In the Ghetto", "Don't Cry Daddy", and "Suspicious Minds" are among the many
  • Elvis continues from '68-'77, performing his last tours and accepting awards from the media
  • On August 16, 1977 Presley dies at the age of 42

Book Trailer- Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley

I found this book incredibly intriguing. I've been to Graceland before, where Elvis spent most of his life while he was famous, but I didn't get near the amount of detail there that I did from Guralnick's novel. He made it interesting while still being informative. Elvis' young life was so exciting that almost every chapter of the book was another unexpected turn. I highly recommend reading this book, especially if you have a special interest in music or pop culture throughout history.
Elvis Presley- HFP Book Trailer

Life Influences

Elvis Presley was born in Tupelo, Mississippi before settling in the city that he REALLY grew up in--Memphis, Tennessee. He moved around quite a bit, and never had a whole lot, but he always made do with what he had. Even though circumstances were tough for him at times throughout his childhood, he always had hope. An expression of this hope can be found in a quote he said in his teenage years. One day in class, he told one of his closest buddies, "One day I'll be driving Cadillacs." His parents were always in and out of jobs, moving wherever the new jobs took them, so Elvis was almost always working as well. This was an influential aspect of his life because it taught him to work for what he had--things were not served to him on a silver platter until he had become totally famous. Growing up in Memphis also exposed him to the culture of African Americans and their music, something that he took action on later in life (and will be explained later in this project).

As a child, Elvis was known for his attachment to his parents. Especially his mother, Gladys, who was more like a best friend to him than a mother. Because Elvis was an only child, he developed a deep relationship with his mom. Even when he was in his 20's and already a performer in the big world, he would go to her with any problems or concerns that he had. Gladys taught Elvis how to show love and compassion unto, as well as how to treat women. She was such an influential figure in his life that when she passed away, Elvis was inconsolable. "Everything I have is gone", he said... His passion for her was so intense, and throughout his young adulthood that passion overflowed into his performances as well as throughout his life as a whole. In addition to Elvis' parents, another influential person in Elvis' life was his manager, known as Tom "Colonel" Parker. He had a major impact on Elvis' celebrity life, but usually not in the best ways. He was an incredibly controlling manager, taking a massive cut of Elvis' money. He looked constantly for ways to cheat the system in order to get extra money for himself. Luckily, he didn't take away from Elvis as a performer.

Elvis' love for music was the sole motivation for him to become a singer and performer. Ever since he was a little kid, he had always loved EVERY type of music there was. He listened to everything from gospel to classical, from pop to the black-inspired R&B of the early 50's. When he got a guitar in his hands and started to play for people, he began to realize that that's all he wanted to do with his life... So he chased after the dream.

Defining Quotes

"I don't sound like nobody" -18 year old Elvis Presley, when asked what he sang and who he sang like

"Rock and roll music, if you like it, if you feel it, you can't help but move to it. That's what happens to me. I can't help it."

"The Lord can give, and the Lord can take away. I might be herding sheep next year."

"A live concert to me is exciting because of all the electricity that is generated in the crowd and on stage. It's my favorite part of the business, live concerts."

Compare/Contrast to a Different Time Period

I think it would have been very interesting to see Elvis Presley alive in today's society rather than the mid 1900's. In the past 60-or-so years, pop culture has changed so much that Elvis would probably seem like some kind of loser. Today's music industry, especially in pop, rock and country where Elvis thrived, pushes sex, money, and drugs among other things as the "fun" activities that only the "coolest" people do. Every new music video that is released nowadays seems to feature less and less clothing on the lead artist. Everyone in America during Elvis' time raved about the "inappropriate", "edgy" performances that he put on, just because he swung his hips and blew kisses to the crowd. These were things that had never been done by an artist in the music industry before, so it got young people excited. If Elvis were to perform to a group of teenagers today, however, they would probably laugh at him as if he were some kind of joke. His style would seem too conservative to them, incapable of keeping up with today's ever-changing American culture. He would not sell near as many albums, have near as many girls, or be near as great of a celebrity as he was in the 1950's.

If I had the skills and voice of Elvis Presley in today's world, I would use the majority of it in a Gospel setting, much like he did. Elvis had a passion for Gospel music that showed up in a lot of his works, which I find inspiring. Another thing that I would do similar to Elvis is give back to others. He provided many things for his family, friends, and anyone else who helped him along his journey to stardom. He gave out Cadillacs as if they were toys! I would try to perform for charity concerts, give extra money to philanthropies, and volunteer myself whenever possible(that is, if I am popular enough to make enough money!). I would budget a small amount to spend on myself as well, but I feel like it wouldn't be much. Another characterizing aspect of Elvis was his good looks. If I had that, I feel like I would be a little more cautious than him when it comes to girls. Elvis was so popular for his looks that the amount of girls he had to deal with seems almost overwhelming.

Political Cartoon- "Elvis Presley - A Dual Threat"

This political cartoon depicts the controversy that surrounded Elvis Presley's performances during the height of his career. In American society at the time, every young person (especially girls) in America swooned over Elvis Presley, thinking he was the coolest guy around. Adults, however, in the forms of fathers, mothers, ministers, public law enforcement officers, and others all saw him as a threat to society. He crossed the boundaries, causing crazy crowds and riots. Conservative families saw him as a manifestation of the devil. Nevertheless, he was a hit among many others within the United States and the world as a whole.
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In Todd "Stereo" Williams' article, "Why I Stopped Hating Elvis Presley", a number of points are made over Elvis' status. Should he be considered a hero to the genre of rock and roll, or a villain? Williams makes it known through his writing that although many, including himself, have made Elvis out to be a racist symbol of white superiority and a thief of "black" music, in reality he was really a kind, humble guy during his time in the spotlight. Williams uses specific examples to support his claim. For one, he proves the point that although Elvis allegedly said blacks were only valuable to "shine my shoes or buy my record", the quote cannot be proven. It was told second-hand to a random tabloid out of Boston. Williams points out that, when looked at in further detail, Elvis said many things throughout his career that actually encouraged the black race rather than bring them down. He also had many close African American friends in the entertainment industry, from B.B. King to Muhammad Ali, who all spoke of him with nothing but admiration and respect. In addition, although many believe Elvis encouraged the rebellion of young people worldwide, he did not actually condone such behavior. All he wanted to do was make music for people, because he enjoyed doing it. Ultimately, Williams does a great job of forcing his readers to rethink their perspectives on Elvis Presley. After doing his research, it is obvious that he now recognizes Elvis as the true hero and "King of Rock 'n' Roll", not a racist villain. I found this claim to be entirely true upon evaluating the evidence myself. Although there are many people who take sides against Elvis based on stereotypes, when looked at in depth there are few reasons to loathe the life of the one and only "King."

In terms of tone, Williams goes from doubtful and hateful to admiring towards Elvis Presley. At first, Williams uses harsh diction such as "blatant racist" and "certainly never meant sh** to me". However, as the article goes on, he slowly begins to unravel the truths that he has learned about Presley. In the end, the author turns from his attitude of doubt to one of confidence. He uses new, less hurtful diction, proving many of his old claims as "patently false". By giving his readers the advice to "ignore the hearsay and conjecture" surrounding Elvis, Williams concludes his article with a respectful tone.

Additional Requirement

One work by Elvis Presley that sticks out in my mind is his performance of "That's Alright (Mama)". In 1954, before Elvis had been noticed at all by the public, he recorded this song with Scotty Moore and Bill Black at Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee.

At this time in America, and in the world as a whole, there were two very distinct cultures between whites and blacks. They each lived in their own communities in town, did their own jobs, and listened to their own types of music. With the release of Elvis' "That's Alright (Mama)", however, things were changed forever.

The words of the song itself are simple and fun, nothing too serious. Elvis sings about dating a girl he shouldn't, and how he's taking the issue up with his mama. The actual words of the song weren't really what had an impact, though. It's how the song was sung. When it was released, and gained popularity, it created a new genre of music called "rockabilly". It fused the country-western style music, so popular in the white culture, with a sped up R&B sound that found popularity within the African American culture.

In a time where the cultures of blacks and whites were completely separate, this song stuck out like a sore thumb. Although it wasn't immediately accepted by all, it nevertheless provided the next step towards whites and blacks having a shared interest over something.

If this song had been released in the time period of the 21st century, its style would have been fully accepted. In the music industry today, there are plenty of white artists that use the black culture as inspiration within their music.

In terms of stylistic devices, the repetition of the phrase "that's alright" appealed to audiences by creating a feeling of care-free relaxation. It provided the catchy hook that got listeners tapping their toes to the beat.

One of the most interesting aspects of Elvis Presley is that all of his work, including this song, was different from every other musical artist that had ever existed until this time in history. In the past, music had been either soaked in white culture or black culture. White artists such as Bing Crosby and black artists such as Louis Armstrong had their own distinct styles, specific to their own cultures. Elvis, however, differed from them because he paved his own way; fusing the two sounds to create an entirely new genre. With the new style that he had created, he was able to accomplish amazing things in the music industry that ultimately changed it forever.

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Elvis Presley.... Thats Alright (Mama)- First Release - 1954

American Experience

If Elvis Presley was here today to share his "American Experience", he would describe it with the utmost pride. One can argue that, with the exception of a few presidents and philanthropists, he was the most American figure alive during the mid-twentieth century. He brought so much of America into unity under one thing--rock and roll music--while having a blast doing it. People all over the United States waited anxiously for Elvis to come to concert in their town. In the meantime, they put on records and listened to the radio constantly just to catch the sound of his voice. This rock and roll phenomenon grew and grew until it became cemented into the American culture, paving the way for even more artists in the late decades of the 20th century. Elvis Presley even cared enough about America to serve in the United States Military, and I'm sure that this would be one of the first things he would mention if somebody asked him about his "American Experience". He knew it was his duty, and when he got drafted, he did not complain much about it. It was a source of pride and patriotism for him. Because Elvis is known as the "King of Rock and Roll", he might as well be considered one of the founding fathers of 21st century America. Through the impact of a single voice, America has not stop rocking or rolling--and I'm sure he would agree.

Works Cited Link (Google Doc)