It was about five months ago when I was sitting in a small basement somewhere. I was surrounded by people of all ages and up on stage was an Elvis Presley impersonator. The crazy thing was, every single person in that cramped little basement, even the five and ten year old people, were singing along with the great man on stage. This is despite the fact that the real Elvis Presley passed away up to twenty years before these people were even a twinkle in their parent’s eye. This in my opinion of a great example of how a single musician has been able to completely change the landscape of the rock music industry.
As we all know, Elvis Presley is one of the best selling solo musicians, even today. Perhaps the reason for this is the man had an ability to cover almost every single genre with relative ease. One hit may have been a rock and roll song, another may have been gospel and another may have had blues elements thrown into the mix. As a result of the versatility of his music and voice he was able to pull people in with relative ease, in fact, I am willing to bet that there are very few people out there in the Western World who do not have a favourite ‘Elvis Presley’ song.
Perhaps one of the greatest contributions Elvis Presley made at the time was being credited with the invention of ‘rockabilly’ music, although to be fair he was only a major player in its development. This was a genre that had been around for a while but had yet to hit the mainstream. However, it was in 1954 that he launched a song which really helped to define the genre, and things really exploded from there. Over the next few years, certainly up until he began his movie career and paused a little for a military service, he started to blend various genres into one song. A practice which still exists today but started with Elvis. Perhaps one of the more notable of his songs in this regarded is ‘That’s All Right’ which was a careful blend of boogie, country and blues. Take a listen sometime, you will be surprised.
Sometime after he launched his successful ‘comeback special’, he started to head down a much harder rock approach. Sure, this isn’t anything like what we know has hard rock at this time, but it was certainly something crazy back them. Although later on he started to tone it down to a more ‘pop music’ approach, although to be fair it was nothing like the pop music that we know and love today. Instead back then it was all about the ballads. Take a list to ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight’ for an excellent example of this.
Now, it is worth noting that despite being credited with the invention of the ‘Rock N’ Roll’ genre, Elvis didn’t. He merely brought it to the public’s attention. Perhaps the man reason for this was the fact he starred in a number of movies around that time, although they were for the most part critically panned. What people need to realize is that the music in the 1950s was completely different from the 1960s. Children around the globe sought to differentiate themselves from their parents, and this came in the form of listening to different music and dressing in different ways. Elvis Presley was who they looked to for influence as they could both see him and hear his music. In my opinion, this was one of the first times in which musical tastes and dress sense actually crossed in such a way. This is obviously a practice which continues to this very day.
Of course, this is just a brief mention of how Elvis Presley contributed to the music of the 1960s and beyond. There are so many more things that you can look into, for example, the fact that he was constantly able to craft his sound to keep up with changing interests in his target audience. It doesn’t matter how you look at it though, this was a gentleman which is still listened to nowadays, still influencing major artists, and still selling a lot of records. The 60’s truly was a fantastic time for music.