The Beatles were once quoted as saying, “Before Elvis, there was nothing, we only wanted to be like him.” They were pretty spot on with that quote.
Elvis Presley changed everything. That voice, the charisma, those hips and lips. The man was a thunderbolt to the music industry at a time when things where coasting along so very nicely. He was so refreshing that that he became to be regarded as one of the most significant cultural icons of the 20th century and who can argue with that?
Presley was born in Tupelo, Mississippi, and relocated to Memphis, Tennessee with his family when he was 13 years old. His music career began there in 1954, when he recorded a song with producer Sam Phillips at Sun Records. Accompanied by guitarist Scotty Moore and bassist Bill Black, Presley was an early popularizer of rockabilly, an uptempo, backbeat-driven fusion of country music and rhythm and blues.
Presley’s first single, “Heartbreak Hotel”, was released in January 1956 and became a number-one hit in the United States. He was regarded as the leading figure of rock and roll after a series of successful network television appearances and chart-topping records.
His energized interpretations of songs and provocative performance style, combined with a singularly potent mix of influences across color lines that coincided with the dawn of the Civil Rights Movement, made him enormously popular, and controversial.
In November 1956, Presley made his film debut in Love Me Tender. In 1958, he was drafted into military service. He resumed his recording career two years later, producing some of his most commercially successful work before devoting much of the 1960s to making Hollywood films and their accompanying soundtrack albums, most of which were critically derided. In 1968, following a seven-year break from live performances, he returned to the stage in the acclaimed televised comeback special Elvis, which led to an extended Las Vegas concert residency and a string of tours. In 1973, Presley featured in the first globally broadcast concert via satellite, Aloha from Hawaii. On August 16, 1977, he suffered a heart attack in his Graceland estate, and died as a result.
Presley is one of the most celebrated and influential musicians of the 20th century. Commercially successful in many genres, including pop, blues and gospel, he is one of the best-selling solo artists in the history of recorded music, with estimated record sales of around 600 million worldwide. He won three Grammys, also receiving the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award at age 36, and has been inducted into multiple music halls of fame. Amazingly Elvis continues to touch millions world-wide despite the fact that he has been dead for 40 years and that in itself just goes to show how much of an influence he had on the world of music.
The Beatles were heavily influenced by Elvis and became massive global stars by creating their very own revolutionary sound. The most important band of all time? You would be hard pushed to think of another that came close. But it wasn’t just about the music with the Beatles, they were the creators! Creators of the look, the stadium rock concert, the music video, they 100% changed the way studio recording happened and where perhaps the first to make album covers as an art form.
Unquestionably they inspired more people to pick up guitars, basses, drums, and microphones than any other musician ever.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame describes him as “arguably the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music” and you only have to listen to ‘All along the watchtower’ to understand why.
Bob Dylan, a musician or a poet? One of the greatest story tellers in American history, an unprecedented talent and influencer of many artists who followed him. David Bowie, the ultimate in reinvention, he spanned genres, decades and mediums. You never quite knew what he would do next, an imagination like no other. We could go on talking about many others, but one thing is clear what marks these out from the rest. Originality, Individualism, charisma and a bucket full of talent.
In full honor to Elvis and to celebrate his life on the eve of 40 years since his tragic death, Electric Jukebox has launched a tribute playlist in honor of the man who brought joy to millions of people around the world.