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Elvis Presley And African American Music

2382 words - 10 pages

"I can guarantee you one thing –we will never again agree on anything as we agreed on Elvis.” (Bangs 1) Elvis not only made significant contributions to the music industry, but he became the most famous idol across the world and in the U.S.A. Elvis Presley was regarded as one of most influential rock n’ roll performers of the century. If you say “The King of Rock” everyone will automatically know you are talking about Elvis Presley. Through his music, Elvis paved the road for African Americans to the music world, and he had essentially revolutionized American society and culture. He went against racism and began a whole new revolution for the music industry.
In the United States between the 1950's and 1960’s, segregation was present between black and white people. African Americans were suffering from racism, particularly in the south where Elvis Presley grew up. In that time, people in the United States were saturated with Jim Crow laws, which was the name of the racial caste system. Besides this, one of the greatest Supreme Court decisions in the 20th century was Brown vs. Board of Education that made a huge change in public schools. Before this decision, black and white people attended separate schools and used separate areas like bathrooms and movie theaters. This action helped to make the Civil Rights Movement (Wallace 107).
Although Elvis was raised in the south, where there was a large amount of racial discrimination, his environment did not negatively impact him. In fact, he was rather positively inspired by African American music, but Elvis’s family was not the best influence on him.
Gladys, Elvis’s mother, worked very hard to keep her family together, but his father, Vernon, was sentenced to three years in prison for forgery, and this put a lot of stress on Gladys to take care of Elvis as a single parent (Rosenberg 1). Gladys also did not have enough money to support herself and Elvis, so they moved a lot from one relative’s home to another. Elvis seemed to not have a lot of happiness in his life, but music seemed to help him cope with his childhood.
According to Wallace, the Presley family lived near the poor African American neighborhoods, and as a young child he heard a lot of blues and gospel sounds from the churches in his neighborhood. Among the white American society it was not acceptable to listen to black music, but Presley broke through these racial barriers (Wallace 14). “People definitely recognized the fact that Elvis’ music was heavily influenced by African Americans which made them very hesitant to allow their children to listen to it.” (Wallace 14) However, Elvis was not born the charming and talented singer everyone sees him to be.
Elvis became an electrician right out of high school and drove a delivery truck to pay for his night classes. By luck one day, he drove by Sun Records Label in Memphis to record a song for his mom’s birthday. This event changed not only Elvis Presley’s life but also the history of Rock...

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