Thursday, 9 June 2016

Elvis, Racism & Rumours

"To Elvis people are people, regardless of race, color or creed."
Louie Robinson

In his early years, Elvis Aaron Presley (1935-1977) - who always believed in the breakdown of barriers - used to be a sort of hero in the black community. He publicly stated that he was listening to black blues singers such as Arthur Crudup; as a teenager he attended the church of a celebrated black gospel composer with a clear stand on civil rights. Others highly criticised him for embracing black music, for not being racist. Two Nashville music executives, for instance, demanded that Billboard stopped listing Elvis's records on the best-selling country chart "because he played black music." Elvis was "too no-class", too indifferent to the then usual social distinctions.

“The lack of prejudice on the part of Elvis Presley had to be one of the biggest things that ever happened. It was almost subversive, sneaking around through the music, but we hit things a little bit, don’t you think?” Sam Phillips  (Sun Records founder)
"Asked to characterize his singing style when he first presented himself for an audition at the Sun recording studio in Memphis, Elvis said that he sang all kinds of music — “I don’t sound like nobody.” This, as it turned out, was far more than the bravado of an 18-year-old who had never sung in public before. It was in fact as succinct a definition as one might get of the democratic vision that fueled his music, a vision that denied distinctions of race, of class, of category, that embraced every kind of music equally, from the highest up to the lowest down." 
Nevertheless, rumour started that Elvis had made a racist comment ("The only thing Negroes can do for me is buy my records and shine my shoes.") in Boston or on Murrow's "Person to Person" TV programme. The fact that he had never appeared in Boston or on Murrow's programme did not stop the rumour from spreading. In an interview, he told a reporter that anyone who knew him would immediately recognise that he could never have uttered those words. The rumour, however, continued (via). Elvis was accused of both not being a racist and being a racist.
“Let’s face it, nobody can sing that kind of music like colored people. I can’t sing it like Fats Domino can. I know that.”
Elvis Presley

Wonderful YouTube Clips:

::: Suspicious Minds (Las Vegas, 1970): WATCH/LISTEN (show gets better with every second)
::: A Little Conversation (movie "Live a Little, Love a Little", 1968): WATCH/LISTEN
::: Something (MGM Studios, 1970): WATCH/LISTEN
::: Little Sister/Get Back (MGM Studios, 1970): WATCH/LISTEN

photographs (Black Leather Stand-Up Showvia and via and via