This is a response to this blog. My grammar and punctuation is worse than usual…I got a little fired up…
Though I appreciate you devoting some thoughtful time to Elvis I disagree with your main point which has become IMO a cliche for how we’re supposed to view Elvis.
The notion that everything other than the Sun Sessions is somehow Elvis selling out is incredibly short sighted. Many who worship at the feet of John Lennon use the army days as when Elvis lost it.
Both ideas are wrong.
Evaluating Elvis Presley the performer and the man with hindsight is unfair and frankly, stupid.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NxC7ZoYkaDw (Tell me this isn’t art starting at 1:37)
Was the twenty year old artist who recorded the Sun Session supposed to continue making that type of music? Was he expected to redefine music every single time he went into a studio?
And define “selling out”. Elvis loved pop standards, opera and music from all different cultures in addition to rock n roll–somehow that’s selling out? Following his own tast and experiencing other types of music was where his muse took him. That’s wrong why? Because the Beatles made Sgt Pepper and the Beach Boys made Pet Sounds?
The fact that Elvis followed his heart and recorded award-winning gospel music is further evidence that he followed his own taste.
Elvis Presley died of addiction in the era before Betty Ford and recovery. I might argue his death shone a light on addiction but whether or not you buy that isn’t as important as understanding that the man was flesh and blood.
It is cliche to say that Elvis was dead artistically in the 70’s. Perhaps his 70’s music may not be to the rock n roll’s snob’s taste but to me that is not important. Most haven’t listened to his 70’s music but simply regurgitate what they’ve read.
Have you heard Elvis play the piano and sing “Unchained Melody” alone on the stage in ’77? He is operatic and he stops the concert to have this intimate moment with the audience–that’s not art? That’s not taking an artistic chance?
Have you heard Elvis performance of “How Great Thou Art” on stage six weeks before he died? That is commercial? That is phoning it in?
Elvis’s recording of “American Trilogy” which tells the story of American race and his place in it was a staple of his 70’s shows. Was this not an artistic and socially important statement?
How about Elvis Concert band in which he brought together black and white Gospel groups to harmonize–do you recognize that that simply isn’t done? Or is that not hip enough?
The fact that he performed as many 250 shows a year to reach the people–that doesn’t count? How many concerts did the Beatles give or were they done by ’71…doesn’t longevity count for anything artistically?
And what was Elvis supposed to do in the 70’s? Was he supposed to be like Chuck Berry or Jerry Lee rolling out the same oldies in the same ways in armorys and union halls? Elvis did different things–you might not have liked it but does that make what he did wrong.
And in Elvis last tour he often went unplugged playing guitar with just a lead and a base returning to his roots. Have you heard those recordings? Have you seen them? It’s him at 42 doing Sun…but no one gives him credit for that.
And go ahead and make fun of jumpsuits and capes but put it in the context of the times. And while your at it do the same with the movies. Elton John wished he looked like Elvis in 73 as did most R & B singers.
And as for the movies–that’s what succesful singers did. Before you argue tell me about the artistic merit of Hard Days Night and Help…and then we can talk about Paradise Hawaiian Style and Girls Girls Girls.
Yeah, I’m a devoted fan. You know what else I don’t apologize for it. Liste to his music…listen to all of it before you write about it. Put down Rolling Stone and think for yourself.
Elvis didn’t crown himself the king…that was bestowed on him.
In 55 when they asked him about it he said.
“If Rock n Roll goes away I’ll try something else and if that doesn’t work, well, I had my day.”
He had his day and he tried a lot of different things.
He also said this:
“Don’t criticize what you don’t understand, son.”