Long Live the King by Bill Storie
40 years ago today Elvis went home.
And last night at Graceland there was a huge candlelight vigil, see http://dailym.ai/2fL2rYS
His popularity stemmed from various social issues and events. His appeal to what we now call the Baby Boomer generation became a permanent fixture in not only their lives, but will last forever.
President Jimmy Carter remarked on his legacy in 1977: “His music and his personality, fusing the styles of white country and black rhythm and blues, permanently changed the face of American popular culture. His following was immense, and he was a symbol to people the world over of the vitality, rebelliousness, and good humor of his country.”
I should add a personal note if I may. Several years ago, my wife and I had lunch with President Carter and his wife Rosalynn here in Bermuda. He was a Past President at the time and still had several secret agents protecting him. As he stepped out of the car to meet us he said, “Hi, I’m Jimmy Carter, seventh cousin to Elvis!” True.
He’d been advised that we were big fans of Elvis.
The Baby Boomers in the 1950s and 60s were a revolutionary generation. We were born after the second World War and were brought up to question everything, and change much. We’d listened to our parents about the horrors of war and the resultant deprivation. We were determined to improve the world and we were open to new ideas. We found the energy and the willpower to not just talk about change but to make it happen.
Even in our music we wanted change. We wanted to listen to musicians who, like us, wanted to speak of change through their music. I’m not sure Elvis set out to be our spokesman, but his mix of rock and roll, country music, black-derived music, and of course his deep love and respect for gospel music, all combined into one of the most powerful musical tsunamis the world has ever seen.
I may be biased, but putting the name Presley alongside Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert would not seem out of place. I would also argue that names such as Mandela, Martin Luther King, Gandi could easily sit alongside as well. They were innovators and agents of change through marches, speeches, sermons, articles and so forth. Why not through music?
The reality is that today we are two, maybe three, Generations beyond Elvis – Gen X, Millennials, Gen Y and yet his followers transcend age. Ask your children if they have heard of Elvis Presley. Ask your grandchildren.
Personally, I am grateful that I grew up with Elvis. I never saw him live in concert even though the only place he placed feet on the ground outside of the U.S. was Scotland. He was on his way to military service in Germany – that was classified as US territory so didn’t count.
I’ve never been to Graceland – although my wife and family have made the pilgrimage. I’m not desperate to go there to be honest. Why you ask?
I would far rather go visit the shack in Tupelo, Mississippi where he was born.
After all that was where God placed the King.
by Bill Storie