” I’m just a singer,
Elvis Presley is the
embodiment of the
whole American culture.”
- Frank Sinatra
It is January of 1935 and Elvis is born in the height of the Great Depression in Tupelo, Mississippi. His father, Vernon is a sharecropper and the family is poor, often lacking in the most basic necessities of life. Elvis’s father couldn’t even afford to pay back the $180 he borrowed to build their small two room house. These early memories of his childhood would remain with Elvis for the rest of his life. He would never forget what it felt like to have to go without. Perhaps this is why he connected with the everyday person so strongly.
A few years later, Elvis would share his personal thoughts and feelings with close friends. He never wanted to be just like other people, he enjoyed dressing and acting different from others in order to stand out from the crowd. He would study other entertainers and observed how they treated people, how they were nice about signing autographs. Also how they were nice about shaking hands or taking pictures with people. Elvis told his closest friends… “If I ever make it, I’m gonna do that, I’m gonna be as nice as I possibly can.”
In 1991 the infamous owner of Sun Records, Sam Phillips reflected on what made Elvis connect with people…
…”People not only enjoyed his work as an artist, but they believed in him as an individual. And also to think to know that he basically did not change a lot so far as his relations with people. Just the ordinary person on the street was something absolutely imperative to his unbelievable success.”
Someone once said that the true measure of a man’s success is not what he achieves and acquires for himself in his lifetime, but what of himself he gives to others. Elvis Presley touched the lives of millions of people the world over with his movies and his live performances. Elvis brought joy to the hearts of people everywhere and even today more than three decades after his untimely death, Elvis’s music and legacy continue to have a lasting and profound impact on music and popular culture around the world.