For Millennials. By Millennials.

Celebrating Elvis Presley’s 84th Birthday

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Most of us know about Elvis Presley or are at least familiar with the name. But we all love him for different things. Some of us can’t get enough of his Christmas music album and others remember him as the ‘King of Rock’, of course.

Elvis Aaron Presley was born on Jan. 8, 1935 in Tupelo, Mississippi. An American singer and actor, he is to this day, regarded as the ‘King of Rock and Roll’ or simply ‘the King’. Presley would have turned 84 years old this year. He is considered one of the most significant cultural icons of the 20th century.

Elvis Presley began his career in 1954 and was supposedly an “international sensation” by 1956. He died Aug. 16, 1977, at his home, Graceland, at the age of 42.

Elvis historians have quoted him saying that once he passed on, he believed people would forget him within five years. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Achievements

To this day, Presley remains the best-selling solo artist, with sales estimates ranging from 600 million to 1 billion.

Presley holds the records for most songs ever charted in Billboard’s top 40. As an album artist, he is also credited by Billboard with the record for the most albums charting in the Billboard 200: 129, far ahead of second-place Frank Sinatra’s 82. In 2015 and 2016, two albums setting Presley’s vocals against music by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, ‘If I Can Dream’ and ‘The Wonder of You’, both reached number one in the United Kingdom.

As of 2018, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) credits him with 146.5 million certified album sales in the U.S., third all-time behind the Beatles and Garth Brooks.

He holds the records for most gold albums, most platinum albums (67), and most multi-platinum albums (27). His total of 197 album certification awards (including one diamond award), far outpaces the Beatles’ second-best 122.

Moreover, Elvis actually starred in 33 movies, got nominated for the Grammy Awards 14 times and had three wins. He received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award when he was merely 36 years old.

Needless to say, Elvis Presley was one hell of a musician and humanity will probably celebrate his existence for all eternity.

Some of Elvis’ top-selling singles:

  • “It’s Now or Never,” 1960
  • “Jailhouse Rock,” 1958
  • “Are You Lonesome Tonight,” 1961
  • “The Wonder of You,” 1970
  • “All Shook Up,” 1957
  • “Suspicious Minds,” 1969
  • “Return to Sender,” 1962
  • “In the Ghetto,” 1969
  • “Hound Dog,” 1956

Thanking Elvis Presley

As Elvis Presley rose to become a national and cultural sensation in 1956, he completely changed the future of music. His work had an undeniable effect on popular culture as a whole. As the musician who brought upon the cultural revolution of rock and roll, he didn’t just define it as a musical genre but also made it a symbol of youth culture and rebellious attitude. Even more importantly, this revolution is what led to a greater acceptance and appreciation of black culture. With its racially mixed origins – repeatedly affirmed by Presley – rock and roll began to occupy a central position in mainstream American media and culture. This, in turn, facilitated a new recognition of black culture.

Cultural Sensation – New Recognition of Black Culture

In this regard, Little Richard said of Presley,

“He was an integrator. Elvis was a blessing. They wouldn’t let black music through. He opened the door for black music.”

Al Green agreed:

“He broke the ice for all of us.”

President Jimmy Carter remarked on his legacy in 1977:

“His music and his personality, fusing the styles of white country and black rhythm and blues, permanently changed the face of American popular culture. His following was immense, and he was a symbol to people the world over of the vitality, rebelliousness, and good humor of his country.”

And, as composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein said:

“Elvis Presley is the greatest cultural force in the twentieth century. He introduced the beat to everything and he changed everything—music, language, clothes. It’s a whole new social revolution—the sixties came from it.”

Moreover, in the words of John Lennon,

“Nothing really affected me until Elvis.”

Bob Dylan described the sensation of first hearing Presley as “like busting out of jail”.

Not only Presley’s achievements, but his failings as well, are seen by some cultural observers as adding to the power of his legacy, as in this description by Greil Marcus:

“Elvis Presley is a supreme figure in American life, one whose presence, no matter how banal or predictable, brooks no real comparisons. … The cultural range of his music has expanded to the point where it includes not only the hits of the day, but also patriotic recitals, pure country gospel, and really dirty blues. … Elvis has emerged as a great artist, a great rocker, a great purveyor of schlock, a great heart throb, a great bore, a great symbol of potency, a great ham, a great nice person, and, yes, a great American.”

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