Elvis Presley : biography
Elvis Aaron Presley (January 8, 1935 – August 16, 1977) was an American singer and actor. A cultural icon, he is commonly known by the single name Elvis. One of the most popular musicians of the 20th century, he is often referred to as the "King of Rock and Roll" or "the King".
Born in Tupelo, Mississippi, Presley moved to Memphis, Tennessee, with his family at the age of 13. He began his career there in 1954, working with Sun Records owner Sam Phillips, who wanted to bring the sound of African-American music to a wider audience. Accompanied by guitarist Scotty Moore and bassist Bill Black, Presley was the most important popularizer of rockabilly, an uptempo, backbeat-driven fusion of country and rhythm and blues. RCA Victor acquired his contract in a deal arranged by Colonel Tom Parker, who went on to manage the singer for over two decades. Presley’s first RCA single, "Heartbreak Hotel", released in January 1956, was a number-one hit. He became the leading figure of the newly popular sound of rock and roll with a series of network television appearances and chart-topping records. His energized interpretations of songs, many from African-American sources, and his uninhibited performance style made him enormously popular—and controversial. In November 1956, he made his film debut in Love Me Tender.
Drafted into military service in 1958, Presley relaunched his recording career two years later with some of his most commercially successful work. He staged few concerts however, and, guided by Parker, proceeded to devote much of the 1960s to making Hollywood movies and soundtrack albums, most of them critically derided. In 1968, after seven years away from the stage, he returned to live performance in a celebrated comeback television special that led to an extended Las Vegas concert residency and a string of profitable tours. In 1973 Presley staged the first concert broadcast globally via satellite, Aloha from Hawaii. Prescription drug abuse severely deteriorated his health, and he died suddenly in 1977 at the age of 42.
Presley is regarded as one of the most important figures of 20th-century popular culture. He had a versatile voice and unusually wide success encompassing many genres, including country, pop ballads, gospel, and blues. He is the best-selling solo artist in the history of popular music. Nominated for 14 competitive Grammys, he won three, and received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award at age 36. He has been inducted into multiple music halls of fame.
When Dewey Phillips first aired "That’s All Right" on Memphis radio, many listeners who contacted the station by phone and telegram to ask for it again assumed that its singer was black. From the beginning of his national fame, Presley expressed respect for African American performers and their music, and disregard for the norms of segregation and racial prejudice then prevalent in the South. Interviewed in 1956, he recalled how in his childhood he would listen to blues musician Arthur Crudup—the originator of "That’s All Right"—"bang his box the way I do now, and I said if I ever got to the place where I could feel all old Arthur felt, I’d be a music man like nobody ever saw." The Memphis World, an African American newspaper, reported that Presley, "the rock ‘n’ roll phenomenon", "cracked Memphis’s segregation laws" by attending the local amusement park on what was designated as its "colored night". Such statements and actions led Presley to be generally hailed in the black community during the early days of his stardom. By contrast, many white adults, according to Billboards Arnold Shaw, "did not like him, and condemned him as depraved. Anti-negro prejudice doubtless figured in adult antagonism. Regardless of whether parents were aware of the Negro sexual origins of the phrase ‘rock ‘n’ roll’, Presley impressed them as the visual and aural embodiment of sex."
Despite the largely positive view of Presley held by African Americans, a rumor spread in mid-1957 that he had at some point announced, "The only thing Negroes can do for me is buy my records and shine my shoes." A journalist with the national African American weekly Jet, Louie Robinson, pursued the story. On the set of Jailhouse Rock, Presley granted him an interview, though he was no longer dealing with the mainstream press. He denied making such a statement or holding in any way to its racist view. Robinson found no evidence that the remark had ever been made, and on the contrary elicited testimony from many individuals indicating that Presley was anything but racist. Blues singer Ivory Joe Hunter, who had heard the rumor before he visited Graceland one evening, reported of Presley, "He showed me every courtesy, and I think he’s one of the greatest." Dudley Brooks, an African-American composer and studio musician who worked with Presley during the 1950s and 1960s, also disputed allegations that Presley was a racist. Though the rumored remark was wholly discredited at the time, it was still being used against Presley decades later. The identification of Presley with racism—either personally or symbolically—was expressed most famously in the lyrics of the 1989 rap hit "Fight the Power", by Public Enemy: "Elvis was a hero to most / But he never meant shit to me / Straight-up racist that sucker was / Simple and plain".