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  1. Elvis Presley was an American singer and actor, known as the \"King of Rock and Roll\". He was born in 1935 in Mississippi and died in 1977 in Tennessee. He was a pioneer of rockabilly, a cultural figure of the 20th century, and a best-selling music artist of all time. Learn about his life, career, musical influences, films, and legacy.

    • Overview
    • From Tupelo to Sam Phillips and Sun Records
    • Colonel Tom Parker and national celebrity
    • Presley’s immediate influence and impact
    • Military service, movies, and mainstreaming
    • Marriage, reclusion at Graceland, and death
    • Legacy

    Elvis Presley (born January 8, 1935, Tupelo, Mississippi, U.S.—died August 16, 1977, Memphis, Tennessee) American popular singer widely known as the “King of Rock and Roll” and one of rock music’s dominant performers from the mid-1950s until his death.

    Presley grew up dirt-poor in Tupelo, Mississippi, moved to Memphis as a teenager, and, with his family, was off welfare for only a few weeks when producer Sam Phillips at Sun Records, a local blues label, responded to his audition tape with a phone call. Several weeks worth of recording sessions ensued with a band consisting of Presley, guitarist Scotty Moore, and bassist Bill Black. Their repertoire consisted of the kind of material for which Presley would become famous: blues and country songs, Tin Pan Alley ballads, and gospel hymns. Presley knew some of this music from the radio, some of it from his parents’ Pentecostal church and the group sings he attended at the Rev. H.W. Brewster’s Black Memphis church, and some of it from the Beale Street blues clubs he began frequenting as a teenager.

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    Presley was already a flamboyant personality, with relatively long greased-back hair and wild-coloured clothing combinations, but his full musical personality did not emerge until he and the band began playing with blues singer Arthur (“Big Boy”) Crudup’s song “That’s All Right Mama” in July 1954. They arrived at a startling synthesis, eventually dubbed rockabilly, retaining many of the original’s blues inflections but with Presley’s high tenor voice adding a lighter touch and with the basic rhythm striking a much more supple groove. This sound was the hallmark of the five singles Presley released on Sun over the next year. Although none of them became a national hit, by August 1955, when he released the fifth, “Mystery Train,” arguably his greatest record ever, he had attracted a substantial Southern following for his recordings, his live appearances in regional roadhouses and clubs, and his radio performances on the nationally aired Louisiana Hayride. (A key musical change came when drummer D.J. Fontana was added, first for the Hayride shows but also on records beginning with “Mystery Train.”)

    Presley’s management was then turned over to Colonel Tom Parker, a country music hustler who had made stars of Eddy Arnold and Hank Snow. Parker arranged for Presley’s song catalog and recording contract to be sold to major New York City-based enterprises, Hill and Range and RCA Victor, respectively. Sun received a total of $35,000; Elvis got $5,000. He began recording at RCA’s studios in Nashville, Tennessee, with a somewhat larger group of musicians but still including Moore, Black, and Fontana, and began to create a national sensation with a series of hits: “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” and “Love Me Tender” (all 1956), “All Shook Up” (1957), and more.

    From 1956 through 1958 he completely dominated the pop music charts and ushered in the age of rock and roll, opening doors for both white and Black rock artists. His television appearances, especially those on Ed Sullivan’s Sunday night variety show, set records for the size of the audiences. Even his films, a few slight vehicles, were box office smashes.

    Presley became the teen idol of his decade, greeted everywhere by screaming hordes of young women, and, when it was announced in early 1958 that he had been drafted and would enter the U.S. Army, there was that rarest of all pop culture events, a moment of true grief. More important, he served as the great cultural catalyst of his period. Elvis projected a mixed vision of humility and self-confidence, of intense commitment and comic disbelief in his ability to inspire frenzy. He inspired literally thousands of musicians—initially those more or less like-minded Southerners, from Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins on down, who were the first generation of rockabillies, and, later, people who had far different combinations of musical and cultural influences and ambitions. From John Lennon to Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan to Prince, it was impossible to think of a rock star of any importance who did not owe an explicit debt to Presley.

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    Beyond even that, Presley inspired his audience. “It was like he whispered his dream in all our ears and then we dreamed it,” said Springsteen at the time of Presley’s death. You did not have to want to be a rock and roll star or even a musician to want to be like Elvis—which meant, ultimately, to be free and uninhibited and yet still a part of the everyday. Literally millions of people—an entire generation or two—defined their sense of personal style and ambition in terms that Elvis first personified.

    In 1959, while stationed in West Germany—where he served as a soldier rather than joining the Special Services entertainment division—Presley met Priscilla Beaulieu, who was 14 years old at the time (Presley was 24). They started a romantic relationship that continued after Presley returned to the United States in 1960. When he resumed his musical career, those who regarded him as commercial hype without talent expected him to fade away. Instead, he continued to have hits from recordings stockpiled just before he entered the army.

    Presley picked up pretty much where he had left off, churning out a series of more than 30 movies (from Blue Hawaii [1961] to Change of Habit [1969]) over the next eight years, almost none of which fit any genre other than “Elvis movie,” which meant a light comedic romance with musical interludes. Most had accompanying soundtrack albums, and together the movies and the records made him a rich man, although they nearly ruined him as any kind of artist. Presley did his best work in the 1960s on singles either unconnected to the films or only marginally stuck into them, recordings such as “It’s Now or Never (‘O Sole Mio’)” (1960), “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” and “Little Sister” (both 1961), “Can’t Help Falling in Love” and “Return to Sender” (both 1962), and “Viva Las Vegas” (1964). Presley was no longer a controversial figure: he had become one more predictable mass entertainer, a personage of virtually no interest to the rock audience that had expanded so much with the advent of the new sounds of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan.

    In 1967 he married Priscilla Beaulieu without much furor. The next year he became a parent with the birth of their daughter, Lisa Marie Presley. Elvis Presley and Priscilla Presley eventually grew apart separating in 1972 and divorcing the following year.

    Presley made no more movies, although there was a good concert film, Elvis on Tour (1972). His recordings were of uneven quality, but on each album he included a song or two that had focus and energy. Hit songs were harder to come by—“Suspicious Minds” was his last number one and “Burning Love” (1972) his final Top Ten entry. But, thanks to concerts, spectaculars best described by critic Jon Landau as an apotheosis of American musical comedy, he remained a big money earner. He now lacked the ambition and power of his early work, but that may have been a good thing: he never seemed a dated relic of the 1950s trying to catch up to trends but was just a performer, unrelentingly himself.

    Almost immediately upon hearing of his death, mourners from around the world gathered at Graceland to say farewell to the poor boy who had lived out the American dream. In a way, that mourning has never ceased: Graceland remains one of the country’s top tourist attractions, and Presley’s albums and other artifacts continue to sell briskly. Each Aug...

  2. ELVIS - the man, the music, the movie star! Influenced by the pop and country music of the time, Elvis' roots run deep in the gospel music he heard in church...

  3. Oct 31, 2023 · Elvis Presley Musician and actor Elvis Presley rose to fame in the mid-1950s—on the radio, TV, and the silver screen—and is one of the biggest names in rock ’n’ roll history. By

  4. Nov 24, 2023 · Presley debuts his compilation Elvis’ Golden Records on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart this week. The title appears in last place on the ranking of the most popular country full-lengths ...

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