Today we celebrate the birthday of another king, a man who changed popular music forever, the king of rock n roll, Elvis Presley.
There is a saying about Elvis that goes, ‘Before anybody did anything, Elvis did everything.’ And how true that is.
From selling records to playing to millions of people across the world, to breaking down social barriers, to changing values and perceptions in modern culture, to even being the large-hearted philanthropist and charitable individual, reams and reams of paper have been written about all of the above and even more, across the decades since Elvis’ ‘coming’.
And as time goes by, and technology and global events take up more and more of our time and sometimes even distance us from the popular musical heritage of the past, I find myself asking the question, how relevant is any of this anymore? How relevant is music anymore? How relevant is Elvis, anymore?
Because, for most of today’s music listeners, Elvis is ‘oldies’ music — music that the ‘katlik buggers jive to, men’. But this is primarily an Indian phenomenon. Worldwide, the life and music of Elvis is celebrated with such enthusiasm, it is astounding.
In a recent trip to Sweden, I was privy to a sound rehearsal of an Elvis tribute show that was taking place at the Globe arena in Stockholm. Now this is a place on the world tour map, artists like Bruce Springsteen and Shakira are regular guests. It is a massive place and state-of-the-art. The stage was the size of half a football field and huge screens were mounted above, playing Elvis images on a loop. The who’s who of modern Swedish pop music were performing their own selections of evergreen Elvis songs, and the stellar backing band made each song resonate.
I was told that this is one of the most awaited annual events by all of Stockholm, and was suitably, emotionally moved to see one mans music still being celebrated more than 30 years after his death. And music that is over 50 years old!
When Elvis sang
Elvis Presley never wrote a song in his life, but he never needed to. The world was full of songs and songwriters who loved it when Elvis sang their songs. And the life that Elvis put into a song, rarely has any singer been able to do so since.
Elvis was a product of his times, and yet he refused to be enslaved by them, he shook up all that was safe, sure and conservative and turned it into a revolution that the world could be a part of. He spawned a sound, he birthed a culture, he reared a movement, he made our grandparents give birth to our parents and maybe he made our parents conceive us too.
Elvis Presley, and the people he influenced as performers, (which is basically everybody), is a benchmark and a milestone that every performing music artist worth his salt aims to achieve in their lifetime. A juggernaut persona that coupled with a sound that hit you in the solar plexus, tugged on those minimal heartstrings of ours and possessed us in a way that required no exorcism ever.
Elvis Presley was the Michael Jackson of his generation, just as Michael was the Elvis of mine and in some weird way, I sometimes think that Elvis and Michael are actually the same person — soul brothers from a time warp, the children of a sound that makes you want to get up and dance like the devil in the pale moonlight.
Elvis once said, ‘Music is something that makes you wanna move, inside or outside’ and that for me is gospel… If I may say so.