August 17, 2011 (Calcutta Tube): On Jan 8, 1935 an enigma was born and on Aug 16, 1977 that man passed away leaving behind a legacy that refuses to die down and a frenzy that never fizzles out. That man breathed for only 42 years but in that short while he came, he saw and he conquered the hearts of men by giving birth to what we know as Rock and Roll today.
Unless you haven’t guessed it yet, that man was Elvis Aaron Presley born in Tupelo, Mississippi, to Vernon Elvis and Gladys Love Presley. From that very humble beginning in a two room house he went on to become “the greatest cultural force in the twentieth century” (composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein).
On the eve of the 34th death anniversary of his, one can look back and see the countless lines, the myriad of pages and the numerous literary compositions that have attempted to capture the black and white of the paradox that was Elvis and in all of them stumble upon just one reiterating thought- “Stuck on You”.
Presley had kick-started his musical career in 1954, when he walked into the Sun Records studio in Memphis. After several hiccups in late 1955, his recording contract was sold to RCA Victor and almost out of the blue he evolved into an international sensation by 1956.
[ReviewAZON asin=”B0030ATZI0″ display=”inlinepost”]The “mama’s boy” received several accolades including three Grammy awards, the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and the title of “One of the Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Nation” for 1970 by the United States Jaycees.
He had starred in 33 successful films, sold over one billion records globally and mesmerised audiences with record breaking live performances including the global satellite broadcast of his concert in Aloha Hawaii viewed by about 1.5 billion people.
With music that traces a path of numerous sundry influences and dance steps that ooze charisma with each snap, twist and shake he overwrote racial barriers of the time and ushered in a whole new era of “rockabilly” music and daring entertainment culture.
Presley had described his electrifying stage presence by saying, “Some people tap their feet, some people snap their fingers, and some people sway back and forth. I just sorta do ‘em all together, I guess.”
So 34 years later as we look forward to honouring the memory of a man who became a king in his own rights, we still sway to “Jailhouse Rock” and we are still enflamed by “Burning Love”.
The magic of “The King” moves us even today and the captivating allure of his vocal prowess emphasizes that “his voice had an emotional range from tender whispers to sighs down to shouts, grunts, grumbles and sheer gruffness that could move the listener from calmness and surrender, to fear.
As eminent American songwriter Bruce Springsteen so eloquently describes the iconic image of Presley, “There have been a lotta tough guys. There have been pretenders. And there have been contenders. But there is only one king.”
Presley’s voice, a revelation in the late fifties and a flash of immortalized inspiration for all rock lovers of today, can still tangle today’s generation in mellifluous dazzling baritones with the very first introduction.
Legendary country rock singer Bob Dylan had defined the impact of his voice by remarking, “When I first heard Elvis’ voice, I just knew that I wasn’t going to work for anybody; and nobody was going to be my boss…Hearing him for the first time was like busting out of jail.”
While time’s erosion fails to disfigure the casket of immortality that cloaks his creations, it infact, like an oil painting renews its vigorous brilliance with every passing moment- a thought that is echoed by the words of singer composer Huey Lewis, “A lot has been written and said about why he was so great, but I think the best way to appreciate his greatness is just to go back and play some of the old records… Time has a way of being very unkind to old records, but Elvis’ keep getting better and better.”
“Before Elvis, there was nothing” (John Lennon of the Beatles fame) and after him his legacy lives on through the hearts of every music lover creating an awe that can be best summarised in the words of popular singer Beyoncé Knowles, “Elvis is iconic; a lot of performers today look to that for inspiration.”
The man who had felt that “it’s very hard to live up to an image”, had risen from being a boy who had “failed in music in school” to an emblem of showbiz and the godfather of modern rock and roll while striding the path with a humility that made him say, “Man, I was tame compared to what they do now. Are you kidding? I didn’t do anything but just jiggle.”
“The King” was aptly immortalized by President Jimmy Carter when he said, “He was unique, irreplaceable. More than twenty years ago, he burst upon the scene with an impact that was unprecedented and will probably never be equalled.
So jiggle a little, jab a few random kicks in air and wiggle feverishly while listening to the electrifying voice of Elvis Presley as that is the best way to pay homage and to remember the man who ascended to the throne of Rock n Roll.
– Arnab Chakraborty