As we celebrate what would’ve been the King of Rock and Roll’s 80th birthday, it’s easy to forget that Elvis Presley was once not regarded as a music legend and pop culture icon. In fact, he was initially received by many as a lewd, hip-swinging, even talentless hack threatening everything good about American music. (Perhaps the Justin Bieber of his day?)
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When Elvis Presley died in 1977 at the age of 42, his career was doing almost as poorly as his drug-filled personal life. Presley’s recorded output had been reduced to an assortment of live albums, second-string picks from years-old studio sessions, and newer recordings he couldn’t be bothered to leave the house to make. Rock ‘n’ roll, which at the time was busy exploring lysergic prog landscapes, considered him a relic—and while he toured constantly, his live show had become a schlocky, Vegas-style revue aimed at the middle-aged crowd who’d first latched onto him as teenyboppers decades before. While Elvis also maintained fan bases in the often overlapping realms of country and gospel, the pop world was pretty much done with him.
Today would have been Elvis’s 80th birthday, and the occasion’s being celebrated in the expected ways—with reissues, a new website, and a ceremony being live-streamed from Graceland. And while it’s harder than ever to hear Elvis’s music on the radio, as oldies stations have gradually shifted their focus onto the Beatles-era stuff that appeals to younger Boomers, the King’s spirit still pervades pop music as thoroughly as it ever has. Here are five reasons why Elvis still matters.
If the only way you hear Christmas music is by what’s played in department stores and those seasonal radio stations that spend the rest of the year broadcasting soft rock you’d be forgiven for thinking your only options are stiffly archaic orchestral arrangements, Crosby-esque crooning, and the occasional over-produced pop song. But as anyone who’s spent any serious amount of time crate-digging through dusty vinyl can attest, there’s a veritable sea of Christmas recordings out there that are way too out there to serve as background music at Macy’s.
Eccentric Christmas music and the people (often eccentric themselves) who are obsessed with it are the subjects of a new documentary, Jingle Bell Rocks!, out now on DVD and VOD. The film includes interviews with artists like Run-D.M.C. and the Flaming Lips who’ve recorded non-traditional holiday songs, but the real stars are the collectors whose intense interest in the music extends year round. John Soss is one such fanatic, and he’s compiled a mix of obscure Christmas tunes for EW that includes contributions by a bewildering range of performers, from James Brown to Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm from The Flintstones.
Have you ever wanted to spend seven minutes watching Elvis Presley’s granddaughter alternately drag Justin Timberlake through a desert and make out with him in her kitchen?
Then today is your day, my friend! Timberlake’s new ‘TKO’ music video bypasses the easy boxing theme for a moody, predictably sexy treatment from “skateboarder turned visual effects artist turned director” Ryan Reichenfeld. The hitmaker shares his screen with just one other person: 24-year-old Riley Keough, of Magic Mike (and, you know, “being Elvis’s granddaughter”) fame.
She pouts, she smolders behind the wheel of a pickup truck, she angrily tosses a bowl of salad to the ground — but thankfully, she doesn’t literally kill Timberlake with her “coo coochie coochie coo,” despite Timbaland’s protestations to the contrary.
Watch the clip below, then tell me if you agree that Reichenfeld’s kitchen tableau seems to be inspired by this 2002 Harlequin Blaze novel. Uh, not that I’ve read that book or anything.
Lil Wayne is not only making rap history, he’s making rock ‘n’ roll history: the rapper has surpassed Elvis Presley as the leading male with the most entries on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.
Lil Wayne now has 109 songs on that chart with Thursday’s debut of Game’s song “Celebration,” where he is a guest alongside Chris Brown, Tyga and Wiz Khalifa. Of his 109 charted songs, only 42 are led by Lil Wayne; 67 are songs where he is the featured act.
Thursday is the rapper’s 30th birthday.
Presley totaled 108 songs on the Hot 100 since it launched in 1958. Presley’s career kicked off before that and several of his songs — like “Heartbreak Hotel” — could not be included in his total number.
The Glee cast has the most Hot 100 entries with 204.
Who would’ve thought that Tupac Shakur would become one of 2012’s leading music industry figures?
Ever since Dr. Dre brought the dead rapper’s hologram to Coachella last April, the nation’s long-dormant love of holograms has come to the forefront. Not only did Dre toy with the idea of actually taking Faux Tupac on tour with him, but others got in on the virtual-resurrection action: TLC announced plans to project the late Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes on a Jumbotron during live shows, the Jackson Brothers have reportedly kicked around the idea of hitting the road with a Michael Jackson hologram, and an Elvis Presley hologram is already in the works.
And the beat goes on: It’s looking like Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, and even Marilyn Monroe might all “return” in hologram form soon. READ FULL STORY
Expect random Elvis sightings to skyrocket in the near future. Digital Domain, the high-tech production company that created the Tupac Shakur hologram that “performed” at Coachella in April, has signed an exclusive agreement to develop “virtual” Elvis Presley likenesses that will appear in shows, TV, and movies. “Elvis is the most iconic, most recognized performer on the planet, and we are thrilled to have been chosen to bring new performances and original shows where fans can have their own, new experiences of Elvis,” said Digital Domain’s CEO John Textor.
Digital Doman’s deal is with CORE Media Group, which markets the Elvis brand (as well as those of Muhammad Ali, American Idol, and So You Think You Can Dance). “This is a new and exciting way to bring the magic and music of Elvis Presley to life. His lifelong fans will be thrilled all over again and new audiences will discover the electric experience of Elvis the performer,” said Elvis Presley Enterprises president and CEO, Jack Soden.
The companies have already started work on their virtual Elvi, plural, meaning that fans likely won’t have to choose between old or young, thin or thick Elvis.
Legendary songwriter Jerry Leiber, who wrote a canon’s worth of popular music with partner Mike Stolle in the years following World War II, passed away of cardiopulmonary failure earlier today. He was 78 years old.
During his 61-year run with Stoller, Leiber concocted some of the definitive songs in early rock and roll, including hits for Elvis Presley (“Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock”) and a number of rhythm and blues stars (“Stand By Me,” “Young Blood,” “On Broadway”).
Born in Baltimore, Leiber made his way to Los Angeles and met Stoller when he was still in high school. The pair bonded over their love of early blues and R&B, and they began constructing songs together almost immediately.
Stoller crafted most of the music, with Leiber taking on the role of lyricist. They sold their first song in 1950, and by 1952 scored their first real hit with “Kansas City.” In 1953, the pair formed their own record label, but really took off in 1956 when Presley took “Hound Dog” (which Leiber and Stoller had originally penned for Big Mama Thornton) and turned it into a gigantic hit when he performed it on The Milton Berle Show—the notorious television appearance that made images of Presley’s hips as dangerous as a thermo-nuclear device. READ FULL STORY
Elvis Presley died 34 years ago today. What's the best way to mark the anniversary of the King's passing?
But how will Presley-loving readers who couldn’t make it down to Memphis be honoring the King? What Presley songs or albums will you be playing? Which would be the best film to watch? Or the best book to read?
Personally, as a big fan of the later Vegas-era Elvis, I’ve been watching the fantastically exuberant–and fantastic white jumpsuit-featuring–version of “Suspicious Minds” you can see below.
Please do check it out and tell us your preferred way of marking the death of Elvis Aaron Presley: READ FULL STORY
“What a Wonderful World”—which the Manhattan-born Weiss co-wrote with producer Bob Thiele—was originally offered to Tony Bennett, who turned it down. It was then sent to Louis Armstrong who would make the track his signature song.
For “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” Weiss reworked an old song called “Mbube,” originally penned by South African musician Solomon Linda. “I did some research and found out that the chant was connected to the lion,” Weiss recalled in 1995. “So I began to think and I came up with the notion that the darn lion was sleeping tonight and nobody had to worry. And I incorporated the chant into the song and wrote some melodies and counter melodies.” The track was a hit for the Tokens in 1961 and would subsequently be recorded by Robert John, Brian Eno, and the Nylons, amongst others. It would also feature in both the film and stage versions of The Lion King. “The song leads a magical life,” Weiss said in 1995. “I don’t know what to think about it. I never thought of it as a song, but rather as a series of gimmicks thrown together. It just shows you—you can’t second guess the public.”
(Follow the Music Mix on Twitter: @EWMusicMix.)
More news from EW.com’s Music Mix:
50 Cent remixes Cee-Lo’s ‘F— You’
Kanye West announces “Good Fridays”: New tunes every weekend ’til Christmas
Lady Gaga is Queen of Twitter: Sorry, Britney!
Lauryn Hill performs at Rock the Bells festival: Is she back for good?
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