By: Cameron Chipman & Grant Schumacher
Known as the “King of Rock and Roll”, Elvis Presley was a singing icon of the 1950’s and was highly regarded among people of that time. Elvis was born in Mississippi, but moved to Memphis in his late teens, where he produced his first hit song “Heartbreak Hotel” in 1957. From 1958 to 1960 Elvis was in the United States military but was stationed in Germany, and eventually returned to America in 1967 to marry Priscilla Beaulieu. In the late 1970’s Presley died due to his drug addiction, but his singing legacy continued to impact the world.
Road to Fame
Originally, Elvis Presley found inspiration in singers like BB King and Sam Phillips. Eventually, Sam Phillips became Elvis’s ticket to success, giving him his first produced album at Sun Studio in Memphis. As Elvis’s popularity grew so did his number of songs and albums, each of which inspired future generations and molded the 1950’s into the time period we know it as today.
Music and Achievements
Since his first album at age 21, Heartbreak Hotel, Elvis released 70 albums and over 100 singles, making him one of the greatest paid entertainers in history. Not only did he make music, but he also acted in multiple movies, made appearances on numerous television shows, and was drafted into the army. Going to one of his live concerts was highly desired among all age groups during his time, and his popularity increased exponentially, yet at a cost. Elvis couldn’t live a normal life, because if he did anything or went anywhere his mobs of fans followed, making him withdrawn and seek comfort in drugs, which eventually lead to his death in 1977.
Impact on the Decade
At this time in America segregation was a conflicting topic and seemed to be everywhere, but through his music, Elvis Presley was able to unite people, despite their race or beliefs, in something great, rock and roll. Presley’s music style combined both American style rock and African American blues to produce a form of music that was enjoyable to everyone and different from anything heard before, eliminating the segregation that had previously limited entertainment. Some critics were scared of Elvis’s lack of a border between two separate styles of culture, but that was what made him different from other musicians and popular among everyone, making his impact more valuable than it may seem at the surface.
Connection to Today and Solutions for the Future
Although he had an early death, Elvis Presley made a timeless legacy that has continued to influence music styles to this day. "The King" made rock and roll the way we know it as today and has passed any other recording artist by nearly 1 billion sales in songs. 39 years later, Sun Studio is credited among musicians as one of the most famous recording studios, and Graceland is a huge tourist attraction. Through breaking barriers of different culture's styles of music, Elvis led to the uniting of American races through great music, and continues to shape our music and culture today.
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