1) No other performer has ever moved so naturally between the genres of Rockabilly, Country, Gospel, and R&B (and been recognized as an icon in each), essentially synthesizing these into a new form: Rock ‘n’ Roll.
2) The looks, the hair, the sneer, the moves.
3) Who else?
4) Mr. Billboard! Most charted hits, Most Top 40 Hits, Most Platinum Hits, Most Gold Hits, Most Two-Sided Hits of all-time.
5) No one before or since could pull off wearing pink and black with such panache.
And because all these people said so:
1) “Before Elvis, there was nothing.” “Nothing really affected me until I heard Elvis. If there hadn’t been an Elvis, there wouldn’t have been the Beatles.” (John Lennon)
2) “A lot of people have accused Elvis of stealing the black man’s music, when in fact, almost every black solo entertainer copied his stage mannerisms from Elvis.” (Jackie Wilson)
3) “Elvis is the greatest cultural force in the twentieth century. He introduced the beat to everything, music, language, clothes, it’s a whole new social revolution – the 60’s comes from it.” (Leonard Bernstein)
4) “When I first heard Elvis’ voice, I just knew that I wasn’t going to work for anybody; and noboby was going to be my boss… Hearing him for the first time was like busting out of jail.” (Bob Dylan)
5) “There have been a lotta tough guys. There have been pretenders. And there have been contenders. But there is only one king.” (Bruce Springsteen)
6) “I don’t think there is a musician today that hasn’t been affected by Elvis’ music. His definitive years – 1954-57 – can only be described as rock’s cornerstone. He was the original cool.” (Brian Setzer)
7) “He’s just the greatest entertainer that ever lived. And I think it’s because he had such presence. When Elvis walked into a room, Elvis Presley was in the f***ing room. I don’t give a f*** who was in the room with him, Bogart, Marilyn Monroe.” (Eddie Murphy)
When Elvis Presley hit the road in June 1977, he was an absolute mess. He was only 42, but years of prescription drug abuse and horrifying dietary habits had left him bloated, depressed and near death. He had an enlarged heart, an enlarged intestine and hypertension.
He was barely sleeping and should have probably been in the hospital, but he was still a huge draw on the concert circuit and the money was too good to turn down. It had been over a year since Elvis last released a studio album, and his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, was determined to get more product into the stores. Despite Elvis’ horrid shape, Parker arranged for a camera crew to film the June 19th show in Omaha for a planned TV special and live album.
It eventually did air on CBS two months after Elvis died, but has yet to resurface in any official capacity. Of course, this isn’t the image of Elvis that his estate wants the fans to remember. Two days later ( 21 June), the cameras were still rolling when the tour hit Rapid City, South Dakota. It was another weak and sad night until Elvis sat down at the piano near the end of the show to deliver what was a spellbinding rendition of “Unchained Melody.” As guitarist Charlie Hodge held a microphone, Elvis dug deep and poured his heart into the song. His body was falling apart, but his voice remained almost as powerful as ever.
Without any doubt, it’s the last great moment of his career. The tour limped along through five more shows, wrapping up June 26th at the Market Square Arena in Indianapolis, Indiana. He died less than two months later. Following is that great performance. Beautiful and sad at the same time.
“Elvis would have turned 87 on January 8th of this year. In my opinion, Elvis is still “The King of Rock and Roll.” Heaven needed a Choir Leader and Elvis accepted the position.”