Does Elvis Still Matter?

As part of our ongoing celebration of Elvis' birthday week, Rocks Off asked our writers the simple question in the headline.

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Chris Gray: Absolutely he still matters. When I was compiling that list of quotes and lyrics about Elvis earlier this week, I wasn't that surprised to see that even Beyonce and 50 Cent acknowledged their debt to E. If you want to talk about "swagger," the discussion pretty much begins and ends with Elvis. I bet Jay-Z has some TCB memorabilia lying around his office somewhere too.

And consider this: As far as I can tell, besides his Memphis bud Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues," Elvis is the only artist from the '50s whose songs are still in regular rotation on Houston commercial radio, over on Country Legends 97.1. Frank Sinatra? Buddy Holly? Fats Domino? Chuck Berry? Little Richard? All gone. But the King remains.


Neph Basedow: Elvis is still undoubtedly still relevant. He was the first rock and roll rebel, censored for simply swaying his hips; rock and rebellion have gone hand-in-hand ever since. He was also among the first performers to introudce such sex appeal and fan mania into the musical equation.

It's also curious and significant to remember that he barely contributed to the writing of any of his songs, which leads me to regard him as a highly notable and groundbreaking performer and entertainer, but not particularly an artist or songwriter. He was a perfect precursor to the Beatles, who took that flair and innovation he brought to the table and rattled it up, improving and redefining what we had considered to be rock and roll (as had been introduced to us by Elvis), by writing their own material.

I think he's relevant because he was an integral stepping stone to where we find ourselves today-- in both rock and pop music, as we're still amidst a sea of pop singers and performers who are wildly popular, though they don't write a lick of their lyrics or music.


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Craig Hlavaty: Elvis Presley is hard-wired into American history whether we like it or not. He used sex, the blues, bluegrass, and his voice to get the world off. It's always funny to me watching the crass reassessments that go on long after an artist has shuffled off. He was a thief, he was a racist, the list goes on. I found this quote by Brit journalist Tony Parsons a few minutes ago:

"Elvis changed the soul of modern music. Without him, Madonna would be a teacher in Detroit."

Then you look into how much Presley and the rest of the guys in his musical gang meant to that second of rock and roll, the Beatles, the Stones, the teen-idol craze in general, and you can't argue with his influence or what he means to us today.

Many say that Presley and people of his ilk stole blatantly from black blues artists, but like Dizzy Gillespie said, music is a gift given to the world. Those same blues artists were not living in a vacuum; they were also snagging influences from hillbilly and early folk.

In many ways, it's the mass idolatry of Presley, the sex symbol, that has probably done the most to cloud what he means today. Look at his run of singles from 1954 to 1960. Jesus Christ, that was the bedrock of the next 50 years of music. That didn't just transcend sex, it was sex. In the most pure form that it had been seen in recorded music history up until that point.

For boys and girls in the '50s, he was the sound of liberation in so many ways. Blame him for the sexual liberation of the '60s, punk rock, boy bands. I'm sure he would have been proud to hear it.


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12 comments
Angelwatters96
Angelwatters96

i think elvis still matters he still the hottest man ive seen befor and he has a voice of a ANGEL and he well always still the king to me RIP ELVIS ARON PRESLEY

cricket900
cricket900

Elvis did invent Rock N Roll. Go check out Sun Studios in 1954.

cricket900
cricket900

Elvis did invent Rock N Roll. Go check out sun studios in 1954.

Child of God
Child of God

Are you kidding me? You base your question on the Houston radio market? All the artists you states being gone are still very relevant across most parts the world.

I suggest you get out of metro Houston more often and listen to more than just Gospel and Country radio. It may surprise you.

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who's john lennon?

Clint Broussard
Clint Broussard

Well, to be honest, I think the fact that the question is on the table proves that Elvis Presley DOES matter still. After all, we aren't arguing the relevancy of any other figure that had enormous success... Elvis Presley was not a singer/songwriter. He came along before there was such a thing. In 1954, most artists (jazz, pop, swing, and even R&B) had songwriters that wrote for the artist/singer. In his infancy as an artist, he simply heard and payed attention to music that was NOT exposed widely... (Arthur Crudup, LaVern Baker, and Texas-born Ivory Joe Hunter, for example.) He gave this music the love and attention it deserved (through the help of WDIA in Memphis, and through a program called "Red, Hot And Blue" hosted by Dewey Phillips in Memphis) Even when he became a national artist on RCA Victor, he chose his own songs, produced them, and made them "Elvis Presley" songs. Like Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, Louis Armstrong, Neil Young, etc... You KNOW Elvis Presley's voice the SECOND you hear it. Hell, there are so many singer/songwriters that can't even put their own stamp on a song they wrote themselves. Most of the time it sounds like a million other songs sung by a million other people. Aside from the "culture" factor in Elvis' importance, I think his music still matters most definately! Those songs, that style, the players, where he recorded...it's all relevent (in my opinion.) Two last points:a. What is not to like about "Don't Be Cruel" or "I Want You, I Need You, I Love You"...??b. To anyone whoe DOESN'T think this man/music is relevant, who the hell is on your list that surpasses Elvis Presley? Many might gut-laugh at the list. (by "many, I mean me...) And- even if you aren't an Elvis fan, you can't deny that the man changed the world both culturally and musically. That will always be relevant.

Gary Packwood
Gary Packwood

I think most of these observations about Elvis' talent try and paint him as more famous in death than he was in life.

Elvis gave poorer white kids a voice in the marketplace for music.

Especially poorer kids whose parents appreciated small church gospel music.

Kids without much money in their jeans where not seen as a market segment and they were more or less ignored as a source of profit for single record sales.

That changed for sure. Elvis' kids kick-started a whole new segment of sales for records and record players.

Talking or singing about your Momma in that poor neighborhood with an important church- house that everyone knows about ...sells!

If Elvis was alive today Gospel music would probably be the national anthem for conservative politicians who are members of the GOP and want to win the vote in small city elections. ::GP

Jim Burrows
Jim Burrows

Let's be clinical. If his passing through our lives, via his music, movies, live performances, was so enormous that it mattered to a city, whilst alive, and I am talking about its economy, and that all of it continues after his death, then he matters. Two cities? Three cities? Four Music Hall of Fames? Three permanent exhibits, not just in Rock or Country Music Museums, but in as many Presidential libraries? What about one thousand two hundred biographies in print? You bet. Seventy markers, throughout the world, 24 statues, 40 streets, the list is endless when you consider the variables involved in ensuring someone matters...

Jim Burrows
Jim Burrows

I coudn't have said it better. What's incredible, is that he matters, not as much as a result of his music but because of the huge spirit he left behind those songs. And that spirit permeates and blesses the souls of those who are fortunate to be his fans. Take the 33 Chilean miners. At first, it was believed that they all sang Elvis songs because of Edison Pena's request for Elvis music to be sent down to where they were, while he and the other 32 waited to be rescued. When Pena was interviewed by Letterman, he said it plainly. No, he ran, alone, and heard the Presley songs he loved on his i-pod, alone. And that notiorierity, of being a runner ad Elvis fan, is what got him invited to run the New York marathon, which led to his appearing on Letterman, which resulted on his closing the NY Stock Exchange, his having been invited to Graceland being neither here nor there. But it can all be explained by the tremendous spriit Elvis left behind....

Jim Burrows
Jim Burrows

My message was sent incomplete. Here's the corrected version

I coudn't have said it better. What's incredible, is that he matters, not as much as a result of his music but because of the huge spirit he left behind those songs. And that spirit permeates, soothes and in some cases even blesses the souls and the lives of those who are fortunate to be his fans. Take the 33 Chilean miners. At first, it was believed that they all sang Elvis songs because of Edison Pena's request for Elvis music to be sent down to where they were, while he and the other 32 waited to be rescued. When Pena was interviewed by Letterman, he said it plainly. No, he ran, alone, and heard the Presley songs he loved on his i-pod, alone. And that notiorierity, of being a runner ad Elvis fan, is what got him invited to run the New York marathon, which led to his appearing on Letterman, which resulted on his closing the NY Stock Exchange, his having been invited to Graceland being neither here nor there. But it can all be explained by the tremendous spriit Elvis left behind.... Flag Like ReplyReply

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