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Elvis Presley - the Impact on Music

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The impact of Elvis Presley on music
University of New York Tirana Krist Babani

Course: Composition II
Instructor: Emily Hill
Date: June 4, 2014

There are many factors and events that influence and change the history of a country, be that a war or a revolution. Despite the many areas changed throughout the decades, in America the art was radically changed through the impact a great man did to the pop culture through his music. His name was Elvis Presley. He reached an immediate success and many other well- known artists noticed it. Apart having an excellent voice, with his looks he stole many young women hearts. He created the music from his soul, even being raised with sacrifices and having a difficult past, these things did not stop him from being “The King” of Rock and Roll.
Elvis Aaron Presley was born in Tupelo, Mississippi on January 8, 1935. He was grown up as an only child because his twin Jessie Garon was stillborn. In 1948 he and his parents moved to Memphis, Tennessee where he graduated from high school in 1953. As a child he was shy and his nickname was Little Elvis. By the age of ten he showed his talent by singing Old Shep in a talent contest. Even though later girls would do anything just to touch him, he was rejected by them at this age. By the age of 12 he had the chance to sing live to a local radio but he was too scared to do it, so he gave up. His mom bought him a guitar by the age of 11 obviously noticing the talent of her son, so by the age of 18 Elvis paid $4 to record his first songs as a present to his mom.
Gladys Love Smith, daughter of Robert Lee Smith and Octavia Luvenia Mansell she was born on April 25, 1912 in Pontotoc County, Mississippi. By the age of 19 she was orphan and worked as a seamstress to support her large family. On June 17, 1933 she married Vernon Elvis Presley. They lived for a while in Tupelo, where she gave birth to twins. Even though they lived in poor neighborhoods and had to do many sacrifices, they were a close knit family. According to her relationship with Elvis, it was very special, including sharing the same bed till Elvis was a teen. They communicated by baby talk with each other and her son used to call her by pet names. Gladys never let her son out of her sight; she was overprotective and never allowed anyone else to touch her son. All of her problems began when she started feeling lonely, because of Elvis being apart from her. Gladys gained weight and began to drink. Even though she wanted Elvis to be famous, the fact that he was too far away from her was painful. Gladys was diagnosed with live disease, and on August 1958 she was admitted to the hospital. On August 14 she died. Elvis suffered a lot for his loss and grieved the lost of his number 1 girl for many days.
Vernon Elvis Presley was born on April 10, 1916 in Fulton, Mississippi. He got married when he was only 17, with Gladys Smith, 4 years older than him. Elvis’ father was very hard working and usually he did odd jobs, for a while working in his farm, then worked with a program during depression and then ended up as a truck driver. Even though he tried hard, his family lived in poverty and bad economical circumstances. On May 25, 1938 he was sentenced with 3 years of prison for forging a check. Facing economical difficulties he moved from a place to another. Father and son shared a very strong relationship of love, trust and respect. To Elvis Vernon was known as ‘daddy’. People say that Elvis was more of a father figure to Vernon. They always supported each other and Vernon was always part of his son’s life. At an interview Elvis’ father says that he has always been proud of his son and that no matter what he made a big change in music.
In 1954 Elvis started singing in a gospel quartet, but his performance was not liked and they said no to him. No matter what Elvis followed his dream and his talent, he never stopped and obviously was his best choice. At the same year he began his career with Sun Records label. In 1956 all rights were sold to RCA Victor. By that time he realized his national success Heartbreak Hotel inspired by a newspaper report of suicide. He recorded 600 songs and all wrote by others. We can mention many famous singles as; Don’t be cruel, Love me tender, Fever, It’s now or never, Are you lonesome tonight, Can’t help falling in love, Suspicious minds. Other than music, Elvis also participated in 33 films and was very well known for his special appearances and tours all around U.S. He broke many records and sold over 1 billion records globally "He became a millionaire, with ten songs on Billboard's top 100, more than any other artist in the past" (Mason, 2008).Was nominated 14 times in Grammy Awards, won 3 and earned gold, platinum and multi-platinum awards. Even though he was a celebrity and was well known, he served his country in U.S Army with no privileges. The last movie he saw was “The spy” who loved me and the last song he sang was “Can’t help falling in love with you” in his last concert in Indianapolis, Indiana on June 26 1977 “His last record album was called "Moody Blue", he recorded it in 1976, one of its hit songs was called "Way Down" (Kleinfeldt and Ember, 2007). Even after his death he is in the list of Forbes for the highest after death earnings, $ 55million.
We can say that Elvis was definitely a big change in the music of mid ‘50s. Everything, his recordings, his moves, his attitude, his clothes were a real innovation, even though not accepted openly and often criticized. Elvis was the language of rock ‘n roll. His music was influenced by African-American blues, country and gospel. He made a big change against racism and many colored singers were accepted among white teens “Elvis truly paved the path and opened the door for white Americans to listen to African American music. His popularity increased the opportunities for African Americans both inside and out of the industry which had a positive effect on racial relations, particularly in the South.” (Wallace, 2012). The great singer Barry White was inspired by Elvis Presley. In America boys started to dress like him, wearing open-necked shirts and cut their hair similar to Elvis. In spite of the limited opportunities the society gave to the black music, Elvis bought African American Otis Blackwell and hired talented black songwriters to his company ‘Gladys Music’. Elvis always had a transgressive attitude towards racism and sexual boundaries. Many parents at the beginning were against him because they claimed his actions as teenager rebellion. His performances on stage made him to be called a sexual pervert and a really bad influence on youngsters’ minds leading them to improper acts. He was even threatened to go to prison if he hooked again his waist. Even many fought against Elvis and his art, what he did was too genial to disappear or to be left aside. He had a big influence on economy, because his image was enormously sold and loved. Elvis showed to play real good music and to give heart and soul to his art.
Nowadays not everything is clear according to Elvis death. His personal physician accepted that Elvis was a drug addict. He prescribed an unusual amount of pills for Elvis, 5,000 capsules for 7 months alone. Toxicologists that examined his body noticed 8 different narcotics, among them codeine, Valmid etc. In spite of the death certificate that indicated as the only cause of death heart attack, later examinations claim that in his body were too many narcotics to keep him alive and the only reason of his death are the pills he took. Elvis’ stepfather and Linda, the actress who lived with him for many years after divorce, say that Elvis was an addicted consumer of prescribed drugs since 1950. He was hospitalized twice for overdose and risked death in 1976. People that were so close to him tried to help in all possible ways, but he was decided to destruct himself. Elvis was diagnosed with insomnia, overweight, high blood pressure, diabetes, and for that reason he used various drugs that lead him to death. Presley was found dead in his mansion in Graceland, a little after 2 p.m. by his girlfriend Ginger Alden on August 12, 1977 collapsed on the toilet. He was buried in Memphis’s Forest Hill cemetery, right next to his mom. He and his mom were reburied in Graceland after the attempt to steal his body “Rolling Stone magazine devoted an entire issue to Presley and his funeral was a national media event“ (Mayo, 2008).

Kleinfeldt, R., & Ember, S. (n.d.). In Elvis Presley, 1935-1977: He Was the King of Rock and Roll. Retrieved June 4, 2014, from
Mason, B. A. (2008, May). In An Eloquent and Neighborly Account of an American Life. Retrieved June 4, 2014, from
Wallace, M. (n.d.). In Elvis Presley: A Revolutionist. Retrieved June 4, 2014, from
In New World Encyclopedia. Retrieved June 4, 2014, from

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