On January 8, 1935 at 4:35 a.m., a little boy by the name of Elvis Aaron Presley was born to parents Vernon Elvis Presley and Gladys Love Presley in a two-room house located in Tupelo, Mississippi. Little did anyone know that this little boy would forever change the world of music and entertainment. Although this was a happy occasion for both of them, it was also a very sad one, too. Elvis had a twin brother, Jesse Garon Presley, who was stillborn just a couple of hours before Elvis himself was born. Elvis was named after his father, Vernon, and Vernons best friend, Aaron Kennedy.
Elviss parents, Vernon and Gladys, married on June 17, 1933. Gladys was 21 and Vernon was only 17. His mother worked as a sewing machine operator while his father was farm hand. When Elvis was 3 years old, his father was convicted of forgery, along with two other men, for a hog they had sold. Vernon was sent to Parchman Prison where he served 9 months. Due to family hardships, Elvis and his family had to move to Memphis, Tennessee.
Elvis was raised in a religious home. He grew up surrounded by gospel music. As a boy he sang with his local Assembly of God church choir, which emulated the style of African-American psalm singing. At age ten Elvis placed first in a school singing contest. He then began to teach himself the rudiments of the guitar.
In 1949, Elvis was enrolled in the L.C. Humes High School in Memphis. The total combined salary of both his parents was a mere $35 dollars a week, but they managed. In 1953, Elvis graduated from high school and began working as a truck driver while he studied evenings to become an electrician. One day, while driving a truck for his company, Elvis noticed a sign that read, “Memphis Recording Service-Make Your Own Records. Four Dollars for Two Songs.” This sign would change his life forever.
Elvis decided he was going to record some songs for his mother as a birthday gift. Upon doing this, he impressed the studio manager with his unique vocal style. He demonstrated outstanding range and influences of African American music. This experience led Elvis to recordings with the studios owner, Sam Phillips through his record label, Sun Records. At the age of 21, he recorded his first songs for a major record label, the Radio Corporation of America (RCA). Included in these recordings, was the very popular “Heartbreak Hotel” (1956). He soon followed with the hugely successful double-sided single record “Hound Dog”/ “Dont Be Cruel” (1956) and “All Shook Up” (1957).
Elviss musical influences were the pop and country music of the day, the gospel music he had heard in church, and the black R&B he had absorbed on Beale Street as a Memphis teenager. By 1956, Elvis was an international sensation. He had a sound and style that was unique. Combining his diverse musical influences and challenging the social and racial barriers of the time, he brought in a whole new era of American music and popular culture.
On March 24, 1958, Elvis is inducted into the U.S. Army at the Memphis Draft Board. He gets his famous GI haircut at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas. The draft leads him to Fort Hood, Texas where he goes through basic training. He is stationed there for six months, and his parents moved to a temporary house near the base as soon as they could. After a couple of years, Elvis gets promoted to Sergeant before he leaves West Germany for good. On March 5, 1960, he is officially discharged from active duty. He had served his country just like any other GI, with no special privileges one might expect for a person of his status. The 2 years Elvis spent away from his career helped him to mature a lot.
On May 1, 1967, Elvis marries Priscilla Beaulieu. They have a private ceremony amongst a small group of family and friends at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas, just after 9:30 a.m. The couple then honeymoons for a few days in Palm Springs. This is the start of a love story full of heartbreak as well as tender feelings.
In her book Elvis and Me (1985), Priscilla describes their relationship in detail. When they met, she was only 14 years old, someone whom Elvis could mold to his ideas. He taught her everything how he wanted her to walk, wear makeup, style her hair, dress, etc. Over time, he came to be her friend, lover, father, husband and, very nearly, God. Elvis was a man determined to create the perfect woman while Priscilla was torn between her love for her husband and her own need for personal growth and self-respect.
They had a deep relationship but also struggled to survive the events shaping their different destinies. This eventually led to their separation in 1971. Priscilla moved out of Graceland, taking their daughter, Lisa Marie, who was 4 years old at the time, along with her. Later, in July of 1972, Elvis and Priscillas separation is formalized. A divorce is forthcoming. Elvis began seeing Linda Thompson, who was the main female companion in his life up until late 1976.
During the 1970s, Elvis faced personal difficulties, including a long- term drug dependency. Presley retreated from public appearances and was rarely seen outside his Memphis mansion, known as Graceland. On August 16, 1977, at the age of 42, Elvis died of heart failure due to his chronic overuse of prescription barbiturates.
His funeral was a grand spectacle. It included a huge extravagant coffin, a white Cadillac hearse, 17 white Cadillac limousines, and over 50,000 mourners who all took home a single flower at the wish of the Presley family. Although he was dead, his legend still lived on.
III. Impact on History
Elvis wasnt just a musician; he starred in 33 successful films including “Love Me Tender,” “King Creole” (playing the role James Dean was slated to play), and “Jail House Rock”. Some later movies included “GI Blues,” “Fun In Acapulco,” and others that were considered uninspired and repetitious. Globally, Elvis has sold over one billion records; more than any other artist. His American sales have earned him awards for 111 different albums and singles, far more than any other artist or group. Among his many award and accolades were the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, and his being named One of the Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Nation for 1970 by the United States Jaycees. Despite all of these awards, Elvis was still a good guy. He didnt let the fame go to his head.
Known as the King of Western Bop and the Hillbilly Cat, Presley fused sounds of country music with black rhythm-and-blues influences and what was then the new rock-and-roll style. His electrically charged performances helped make him one of the first mass idols of United States pop-culture. He inspired countless musical artists.
His talent, good looks, sensuality, charisma, and good humor endeared him to millions. He demonstrated humility and human kindness throughout his life. Known in the world by his first name, Elvis is regarded as one of the most important cultural figures of the twentieth century. So many people loved him, and he was an inspiration to many.
IV. Comparison to an Important Person Today
Elvis Presley was such a unique and influential person that it is hard to compare him to anyone today. In a way, he is in a class of his own. If he were to be compared to anyone in the spotlight today it would probably be someone like Garth Brooks. Garth Brooks is a country singer with thousands of fans around the world. Like Elvis, he has sold millions of records worldwide. Garth is in the music industry just like Elvis was. Although Garth is very popular, he cannot compare to the popularity of Presley. Presley still lives on as a legend today. He starred in 33 major motion pictures, and Garth hasnt starred in any. It would be impressive to have someone in the spotlight today with the same fame and status as Elvis had.
This concludes the story of the most famous and influential person of twentieth century popular culture. His name is Elvis Aaron Presley. His music and fame were, and still are, unprecedented. He is a legend that will forever live on in the hearts of many.