Controversy With Elvis Presley Essay

1391 words - 6 pages

Rock and roll music existed before Elvis Presley came along, but with his arrival on the performing scene, Americans could ignore it no longer. In 1956, he strode in front of a television camera for the first time as the provocative image of a high school hood and achieved an instant rapport with millions of U.S. teenagers who were experiencing their own adolescent rebellion. Hip-wiggling gyrations that brought a storm of protest from the adult world reinforced his popularity with young people, and he became the epitome of a whole generation that saw itself as defiant, disenchanted, and less inhibited than the one that had gone before. His songs, an amalgam of white country and western music, black rhythm and blue, and gospel sounds of both races, heralded a change in popular music that would eventually make this interaction of black and white musicality an accepted idiom in American culture.
Born in Tupelo, Mississippi, during the Depression era, Presley was the only child of poverty-stricken parents. He began singing at an early age and taught himself to play the guitar. Among his earliest musical influences were such country and western musicians as Roy Acuff, Ernest Tubb, Ted Daffan, Bob Wills, Jimmie Davis, and Jimmie Rodgers, performers whose radio and recording popularity were widespread throughout the South. Black blues singers Booker (Bukka) White, Big Bill Broonzy, Arthur (Big Boy) Crudup, Otis Spann, B. B. King, John Lee Hooker, Chester (Howlin' Wolf) Burnett, Jimmy Reed, Earl Hook, and McKinley (Muddy Waters) Morganfield also held fascination for the young Presley despite the fact that their music was less "respectable" in the South at that time. A further influence was revival meetings, where Presley sang spirituals and watched the frenzied antics of preachers and congregations.
During his lifetime, he became the first rock and roll artist to establish a continuing film career independent of his appearance in performance, and he was the first to have a series of "million seller" recordings. Presley could probably best be studied for his influence on music history. Although singers such as Frankie Laine and Johnny Ray had enjoyed popularity by bringing black vocal styling’s to the white public, Presley took the earthy medium of rhythm and blues and presented it in a manner much closer to the original concept than had his white predecessors. Through his popularity, he helped to create respect for the genre in a worldwide audience and opened the door for black performers to gain national prominence. Presley also influenced many important groups and...

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