50 Reasons Why I Love Elvis

No blog about my life would be complete without a post devoted to my favorite singer of all time. I celebrate January 8th every year because it’s Elvis Presley’s birthday, so it stands to reason that today’s the day I write this post. If he were still alive, he’d be 83 today. Anyway, here are 50 reasons why I love Elvis!

 

  1. I discovered Elvis when I was 10 years old after a free CD with a small selection of his songs came attached to a newspaper. My mom played it in the kitchen and after listening to it, I quickly fell in love with his music.
  2. The song on that CD that I liked best was “Burning Love” and in the beginning that was my favorite.
  3. I was given more Elvis CDs by my family, opening up a myriad of new songs for my happy ears. I put them in a big CD-player I had and listened to them every morning before school as I took my shower, covering the stereo with a towel because I was paranoid about the adding of water to electricity.
  4. As a kid I preferred the concert songs of the 1970s, Vegas-era white-jumpsuit Elvis, but as I got older I was drawn more to the rock and roll tracks of his early career- the raw, rebellious, 1950s Elvis.
  5. I envied that the older members of my family had gotten to live at the time when Elvis was alive, and I hounded them for information on any memories they might have of him. I distinctly remember my Aunt telling me that her favorite number was “All Shook Up” and my grandma, when pressed, thought that “Blue Suede Shoes” was his most famous or iconic song.
  6. When I was 11 years old I was doing a school project on Richard Nixon, and on the front page I put a picture of Elvis and Nixon shaking hands. However, our printer was godawful so the whole thing had this sickly green hue to it.
  7. Over the years I’ve collected a lot of memorabilia. I’ve got Elvis scrapbooks, atlases, encyclopedias, cookbooks, biographies, limited edition issues of the official Elvis magazine, and even some rare Elvis trading cards I got on eBay. In addition to countless Elvis-themed clothing items, a dozen documentaries and several of his concerts on DVD, and other such merchandise, an American flag with his face on it hangs above my bed.
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  8. I’ve never dressed up as Elvis, and the thought of becoming an impersonator used to make me very uncomfortable. I had my doubts that it was the respectful way to remember him, and I thought that doing so might be too emotional for me. However I’ve grown to respect the artistry of some particularly skilled impersonators, and now I’m at the point where I won’t rule out becoming one in the future.
  9. I don’t particularly like Elvis’ movies, barring a couple of exceptions. I consider his movie career to be a low moment in his history, because it not only stunted his growth as a music artist, but it wasted his raw potential for acting.
  10. The biggest exception is King Creole, which is my favorite Elvis film. It’s essentially a gangster movie set in New Orleans, that doubles as a musical with some of the best songs of his career as a musician, let alone an actor. The best ones are “King Creole”, “Trouble”, “As Long As I Have You” and “Hard-Headed Woman”, all of which are amazing.
  11. I’m not a fan of Colonel Tom Parker, despite him being a pretty good manager in the early part of Elvis’ career (before he went to West Germany). Parker was essentially this old fashioned carnie guy, motivated solely by profit, and was either oblivious to or dismissive of Elvis being an artist that wanted to express himself. Instead he kind of treated Elvis as a circus act to be paraded around, a brand, something passive and without substance, to be cynically marketed in the most blandly inoffensive way possible.
  12. Elvis wanted to be a serious actor, and deeply admired Marlon Brando and James Dean. However Tom Parker wouldn’t let him contribute as one actor equal to the others in a given film; he demanded that Elvis have top billing, that he essentially play himself instead of trying to stretch his wings as a character actor, and that the movie would basically be a family-friendly “Elvis movie” instead of a film with artistic vision. It makes me sad to see Elvis’ potential wasted as he is forced to act in these dumb films he absolutely hated, which sent him into a depression.
  13. One of the biggest reasons I was drawn to Elvis as a person and not just as a singer was his status in the 1950s as a symbol of teenage rebellion. I remember my English professor at school telling us how, before he came along with rock and roll, there didn’t exist a concept of teenagers as being a distinct group in-between children and adults.
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  14. Elvis was part of a trend in the 1950s that was more controversial and edgy than even the most savage gangsta rappers we see today. People literally thought he was the devil incarnate, and there were efforts to get him off the screen and even to ban his live performances. The most famous example is of course the way they would only shoot him from the waist up, because they considered his gyrating hips and legs to be scandalous.
  15. As I said above, Elvis greatly admired the actors Marlon Brando and James Dean. Movie stars were practically godlike in those days, and had a profound effect on popular culture. Both Brando and Dean planted the early seeds of that rebellious 1950s image of teenage youth that Elvis and other rockabilly artists would then go on to popularize in their music. Brando did so as early as 1953 in the outlaw biker flick The Wild One, and Dean followed it up two years later in the groundbreaking masterpiece Rebel Without a Cause. If it weren’t for these two movies, Elvis’ iconic greaser-come-rockabilly look might have been a lot different.
  16. Elvis styled his pompadour haircut off of Dean’s character in that movie, and both of them were inspired by Brando’s sideburns in The Wild One. Between Dean and Brando’s movies about teenage delinquency and Elvis’ sexually-charged music, anyone wearing a leather jacket and sporting sideburns was considered a complete thug.
  17. Half a century later, the whole style affected me too; in the past I’ve grown sideburns, and on special occasions I’ll use a special Elvis-branded pomade to slick back my hair. I also collect leather jackets which I don’t think can be a coincidence.
  18. I went to get my degree in creative writing at the University of Winchester and during a class in my first year, we were asked to bring in a song that spoke to us emotionally and then do some writing on it. Back then I was pretty embarrassed about sharing the songs I liked with people, because it felt like showing them my emotional landscape and I guarded my feelings back then with about as much mercy as a cornered honey badger. Extremely nervous, I brought in my iPod and played the song “Don’t Be Cruel”, which was my favorite at the time. When asked what I thought about the piece, I described it as “electrifying”.
  19. At the end of my first year, we had to produce a creative art project that we would then display in a gallery. It was the last assignment of the semester and I wasn’t sure what to do. A girl from the class I had played “Don’t Be Cruel” in suggested something to do with Elvis, since his music was something I was passionate about. I liked the idea, and although nervous at sharing my passion with my colleagues- with whom I felt like the class wallflower, always fearful and reclusive- I did feel a kind of joy at the idea of opening up. I settled on creating a massive map of Elvis’ America, and after drawing the outline of the USA, I added in pictures and pieces of information from various points in his life, creating something that was both a timeline and an atlas.
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  20. During some of my lonelier moments in that rough first year of university I would turn to Elvis’ music to cheer myself up, often listening to the likes of “An American Trilogy” or other slower numbers on my iPod in bed to drown out the sound of the partygoers. I later wrote a poem about the importance of his music and the comfort it provided me for a class project.
  21. A few months after making that big map, I got to finally make my pilgrimage to Graceland in August of 2012. We were there during Elvis Week and the 35th Anniversary of Elvis’ passing, so the place was absolutely packed with tourists from around the globe.
  22. One thing I loved about being in Memphis was how the legacy of Elvis was everywhere you looked. It was like the whole city was gearing up for Elvis Week; his face was everywhere- on billboards, in store windows, on restaurant menus. Near the city’s famous Beale Street there’s an awesome statue of The King.
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  23. If you are curious about some of Elvis’ favorite dishes, a lot of restaurants in the area serve Elvis-themed cuisine. I got something called the “Love Me Tender Platter” which was a fricking mountain of fried chicken, at a place opposite our hotel.
  24. The “Elvis Sandwich” is the most well-known and iconic meal inspired by The King. You can get it at a lot of places in Memphis and obviously at the eateries around Graceland. It’s known that he especially enjoyed grilled sandwiches of peanut butter, mashed bananas and bacon.
  25. Other essential eating for the diehard Elvis fan includes fried chicken, meatballs wrapped in bacon, T-bone steaks, biscuits fried in butter and filled with sausage, tomato fritters, fried pickles, Monkey Bread, and coconut cake. These were his favorite dishes and I love how decadent they are. Elvis loved the hearty, home-cooking of his native South, and never really took to foreign cuisines.
  26. What I loved about my time at Graceland was that I was, for the first time ever, surrounded by people like myself. There was an army of people young and old sporting sideburns and dyed black pompadours, people from every corner of the world, all of them wearing Elvis merchandize like myself. I felt a sense of belonging, especially at seeing so many younger Elvis fans. The army around me had the same sense of religious fanaticism you might get from a crowd of sports fans.
  27. We had to be taken to Graceland via these mini buses, each group regulated by guides because there were so many of us. Once we were through the gates and I was standing in Elvis’ front yard, we had to wait until we were allowed in. Each group had a certain amount of time and you had to keep walking. You couldn’t double back and check out a certain room again, or move freely.
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  28. As we waited, one of the guides told us facts about Elvis’ legacy and my brother told me that given my encyclopedic knowledge and fervent zeal, I could easily get a job here.
  29. What struck us most about the house was that it wasn’t quite as grandiose and extravagant as you might expect given Elvis’ absurd wealth and fame. It’s definitely fancy, but it’s also quite homely and snug. It feels very much like a place that was lived in, rather than some cold, soulless mansion. It’s the kind of place that looks bigger and grander than it actually is if you’ve only seen it in pictures.
  30. I felt a pang of emotion when looking at the swing sets and tricycles used by a young Lisa Marie. Elvis and his wife Priscilla divorced when Lisa Marie was at a very early age, and a few years later Elvis passed away. It’s sad to think of the childhood memories she missed out on.
  31. Sadder still was the moment of looking upon Elvis’ gravestone. All around were beautiful wreaths and works of art made by fans from as far away as Taiwan and Denmark. My brother confessed to feeling a surge of emotion as he looked down upon the memorial.
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  32. The highlight of my trip came when news broke out that Lisa Marie Presley was conducting a radio interview here at Graceland, and I was able to get quite close to the front of the crowd gathering at the barricades. I was probably an arm’s length away from her, and proceeded to take the best pictures I could, all the while feeling completely paralyzed with awe.
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  33. Before leaving Graceland I checked out the gift shop and bought myself a TCB necklace, something I’ve always wanted. The TCB stands for “Taking Care of Business” which was Elvis’ motto. He outfitted his entire entourage with pins bearing these letters arranged around a lightning bolt, and the logo can also be seen on Elvis’ private jet, the Lisa Marie. If I were ever to get a tattoo, that’s what I’d get.
  34. One time someone in the USA came up to me and informed me they hated Elvis. I told my brother and he went into a rage.
  35. I went to see an Elvis concert in Bristol, where a live orchestra provided the instrumental accompaniment to his voice, and a 3D holographic image of Elvis from his Vegas concerts gave the closest thing you can get to experiencing Elvis in concert. It’s an amazing production, and it’s been so successful that they have taken to touring the world. The one I went to sold out fast and we were lucky to get tickets.
  36. King Creole is my favorite fictional Elvis film, but my favorite motion picture overall is the documentary Elvis On Tour. The montage sequences were supervised by a young Martin Scorsese and if you’ve ever studied Mean Streets or Taxi Driver you can tell how his distinctive cinematic genius has touched the production.
  37. In 2014 I visited the Green Bay area of the US state Wisconsin, and on the last day of my time there, my friends took me to an amusement park called Bay Beach. There’s a ride there called the Zippin’ Pippin’ which is said to be Elvis’ favorite ride. I made sure to get my picture with the plaque boasting to that effect, before braving my fear of roller coasters with my friend Elizabeth to give it a go.
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  38. My all-time favorite Elvis song is “Can’t Help Falling In Love”, and I put a dollar in the jukebox at a bar in De Pere, WI called The Old Number Seven to play this song. I was playing darts and drinking beer with my American family, and when the song started playing I took a special joy in seeing my best mate Anne-Marie singing along.
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  39. “Can’t Help Falling In Love” is my favorite song overall, but there’s an Elvis song for every occasion. If you want something inspiring and uplifting that touches on social issues, then go for “In the Ghetto” or “If I Can Dream”, the latter of which is based off of Martin Luther King’s speech. If you want a more edgy rock and roll sound, then I’d recommend “Hound Dog”. And you can’t leave out “Suspicious Minds”, which is generally considered his greatest song pound for pound. I tend to pick which of his songs to listen to on the basis of my mood at the time.
  40. Following up that last point, Elvis is in 23 Halls of Fame for his musical achievements. That’s why I encourage people to give him a go, because there’s a lot of variety to his songs. He’s considered a legend in the genres of rock and roll, country, pop, blues, and gospel!
  41. Elvis served as a huge inspiration for so many successful music artists. It’s well documented how the likes of John Lennon and Bob Dylan worshipped him, but even modern singers discuss how influential he has been on their careers. Notable examples of Elvis fans that come to mind in today’s industry include Katy Perry, Lana Del Rey, and Harry Styles.
  42. I was so pleased when playing Fallout: New Vegas that there was a street gang of Elvis impersonators. It’s one of my favorite games and when I play I always join that faction.
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  43. Essential movie-watching for Elvis fans includes Lilo & Stitch, Blade Runner 2049, and Forrest Gump.
  44. Fun fact: Charles Manson had a plot to assassinate Elvis Presley and even showed up at one of his Hollywood residences, looking deranged and suspicious. Fortunately, Elvis employed all his high school buddies as his personal bodyguards, the Memphis Mafia, and they told Manson to get lost.
  45. One of my favorite things about Elvis was his generosity. There are so many stories of Elvis giving expensive gifts to complete strangers, such as cars and houses, a job if he could hire them, a wheelchair if they needed it, and every year he gave huge donations to charities, hospitals and schools. But Elvis wasn’t perfect- he was as flawed and human as the rest of us. He made mistakes and lost his temper, and he really would have disliked the Christlike image in which some people regard him.
  46. My brother loves Frank Sinatra, and in 1960 the great singer hosted Elvis on his television show in a special episode welcoming him home from the army. Previously, Sinatra had regarded Elvis and the rock and roll movement with disdain, thinking that they were just a bunch of crude reprobates. However, after meeting Elvis he came to admire him very much, after seeing that the rebel image Elvis had was just that- an image, a marketing tool. Privately, Elvis was a very humble, polite person who deeply loved his mother- traits that won Sinatra over.
  47. Elvis was a huge football fan, a fact that makes my heart happy. He loved to both play and watch the game, and was a complete nerd when it came to the sport. He loved being tested on football trivia and knowing the names and numbers of all the players. If he were alive today I’m sure he’d be a fan of the Tennessee Titans, and celebrating their weekend win over the Kansas City Chiefs in the wild card round of the playoffs. However, his favorite team was actually The Cleveland Browns, who just this season finished 0-16. It’s not that surprising though, because believe it or not, the Browns were utterly unstoppable when Elvis was young. Otto Graham was an ice-cold badass, the most winningest quarterback in NFL history, who won Cleveland the 1954 championship game by throwing for 3 touchdowns and rushing for 3 more, not long after Elvis got back from the Louisiana Hayride.
  48. Elvis’ favorite player, however, was the immortal Jim Brown- perhaps the greatest player of his era pound-for-pound. Of course, Elvis became friends with Brown and there’s an awesome photo of the two giants in their respective fields chewing the fat.
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  49. This talk of football and music brings to mind the inherent zealotry of fandom. I’m not the kind of Elvis fan that’s going to come up to you and fill your earhole with preachy rhetoric about how great he is- which admittedly sounds ironic given this post- but all the same, I am nothing if not shy, so I don’t try to convert people. My approach to music- and life in general- can best be described as live and let live. That said, I can get quite defensive if someone comes up to me and slanders his name- much in the way I can get heated when people insult Aaron Rodgers.
  50. It’s reported that on the last full day of his life, Elvis had tried to get Lisa Marie a print of Star Wars: A New Hope, which to me is the perfect fact to end this list on!
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