Monday, January 7, 2008

Church of Elvis

Dot Lane, Remembering Elvis In Her Own Way

Taken at Baker's, which I stumbled upon while running around on my Japanese mallapalooza tour. I'm too young to remember Elvis's death (I was aware of Kurt Cobain's, which gives you an idea of my age, but I hadn't really seriously started listening to music) but as a cultural icon, it is hard to think of anyone who has a similar global icon status. The Beatles? Maybe, but those were four guys whose path had already been opened up by people like Elvis. My votes from that era also go to Buddy Holly, whose musical legacy has been further reaching than that of Elvis, and Little Richard, simply for scaring the crap out of adults and showing how dangerous rock and roll could be.

While Elvis certainly attracted his share of negative attention, he was at heart a dutiful son, a soldier, and someone who wanted to be loved. I read Peter Guralnick's two volume biography of Elvis last summer and I recommend it to anyone looking to get behind the myths to the person. It's easy to think of the fat Elvis, the sweaty jumpsuited, scarf wearing Vegas Elvis with a gospel choir and twelve-piece band, but if you can, watch the early film clips of him. There's a menace, a sexual dynamic, an anarchic streak running through him which set the standard for anyone who would later get up and sing in front of guitar, bass, and drums.

It's hard to believe he would have been 73 tomorrow. Here is Elvis in 1957:

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