Thursday, September 27, 2007

Love, Love, Love The Man

My dear friend Lisa Short just sent me a link to this video and I am in love once again. The footage in this is brilliant--there is nothing better than the Elvis of the Fifties--the Rockabilly, pelvis-banned, ball of energy young Elvis. Can you get much cooler than this or, even better-- this?

Maybe some of my love for Elvis comes from my Memphis roots--and from the fact that my Mom was friends with him. I grew up hearing my grandmother exclaim, "Oh what a sweet boy!" whenever Elvis' name was mentioned. She actually hired him twice to play for a fundraiser in Forrest City, Arkansas. One day soon I want to formally interview my mother and grandmother about their Elvis experiences and post them here.
I also love thinking about Elvis not only as an icon not only of energy and style, but also as a symbol of a movement forward in American race relations (in fact, I gave my composition class a mini lecture on this the other day).
I have one question concerning Elvis' legacy that has always bothered me: why are Elvis impersonators always characterizing the 70's, tacky, fat, white Jump suited Elvis? I have never seen a sleek, twisting 1950's Elvis. Why?

1 comment:

John B. said...

Thanks for this.
Re Elvis and race relations: no question that his singing and performance style opened up white radio for black performers, thus overtly making African-American musics a central part of popular culture.
One of Elvis' early nicknames (pre-Col. Parker?) was "The Hillbilly Cat." That name signifies that people early on recognized him as culturally miscegenated. You might also be interested to know that in Alice Walker's novel Temple of My Familiar (which I can't otherwise recommend), one of the characters has a brief but thoughtful riff on this idea.

The story is that Elvis did his own choreography in Jailhouse Rock. My all-time favorite clip of Elvis, though, has to be from the rockabilly days: the camera is at crowd-level and located at one end of the stage; Elvis, at the far end and wearing the too-big jacket and peg-leg pants, does some sort of pinwheeling, arms-and-legs-flailing step sideways across the width of the stage that looks out of control yet is perfectly balanced and so is a gorgeously-symmetrical blur of motion, till he reaches the spot where the camera is, and he freezes, his left leg in some awkward position. He holds that pose for a couple of beats, then reaches down with his hand and moves his leg into the "proper" position. It may be the coolest thing I've ever seen.

And you ask why the impersonators imitate the fat Elvis.